Vandoorne a «natural» choice for Peugeot WEC reserve role

Vandoorne was inducted into Peugeot’s Hypercar programme at the beginning of February as part of a deal that will see him drive the 9X8 LMH in case any of the French marque’s six race drivers are sidelined from competition.

The contract marks an extension of Vandoorne’s new relationship with the Stellantis automotive group, the Belgian having joined its Formula E squad DS Penske at the beginning of the current season after winning the 2022 title with Mercedes.

The 30-year-old will combine his newly-announced WEC commitments and existing FE duties with a reserve driver role with Aston Martin in Formula 1, meaning he will be involved in three different world championships this year.

Asked if Peugeot was simply looking for the best available replacement for the retired James Rossiter, or it had an eye on a long-term partnership while hiring Vandoorne, Peugeot Sport technical director Olivier Jansonnie said: “I think it’s probably both. 

“For sure Stoffel has got a very busy schedule, it’s not easy. It requires a lot of activity. But he is also involved with DS in Formula E, so we already have a driver from the group of Stellantis. 

“So it was quite natural for us to ask him to fulfill this position. It’s very important we can count on our drivers across all the programmes we are running at Stellantis Motorsport. 

“Now to know whether there is something more than that, I think it’s a bit early to say. First, we need to check how we can make it work with his current schedule. 

“He’s very busy, it’s good. It’s actually a very positive sign for a race driver. So, we must see for this year how we can balance.”

Stoffel Vandoorne, Peugeot 9X8

Stoffel Vandoorne, Peugeot 9X8

Photo by: Peugeot Sport

Vandoorne got his first taste of the Peugeot 9X8 LMH car at Aragon last week, after a planned outing at the Bahrain rookie test in November had to be scrapped when he was diagnosed with appendicitis.

The Belgian driver last raced a prototype sportscar in the 2021 WEC season, when he scored five podiums in six races for LMP2 stalwart JOTA. Vandoorne also has two top-class WEC outings to his name, having bagged a pair of third-place finishes in 2019 in an SMP Racing LMP1 car.

Jansonnie explained that the Aragon test was crucial for the French manufacturer to get Vandoorne’s input on its fast but so far unreliable 9X8, while also making him race fit in case his services are required during the year. 

“We are basically just starting with him,” he said. “We have to involve him in testing anyway, first because it’s very valuable for us in terms of feedback. He has got huge experience. So, it’s very interesting for us to give him some mileage in our car. 

“But on top of that, he is our reserve driver, which means that in case any driver being sick or unavailable for another reason, he must be able to jump in the car and race basically. So, we must give him some mileage.”

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