Peugeot Le Mans racer with rear wing |  CAR ENGINE AND SPORTS

Peugeot Le Mans racer with rear wing | CAR ENGINE AND SPORTS

Avant-garde, icon or even revolutionary – Peugeot’s latest Le Mans racer has been receiving rave reviews since its presentation. Because no other model uses the freedom of LMH principles as boldly as the 9X8. The focus of his concept so far is the lack of a rear wing. The idea behind it is quite clever on paper – or more modern: on the screen with a simulation tool.

Thanks to the high ground effect under the body, the flow of air through the engine cover can be kept to a minimum. A small sliding fin, which is supported by elements in the rear wheel arches, and a slot-shaped spoiler provide a significant boost in terms of stability and downforce. On the one hand, the focus on the underflow gives the hypercar a deliberately aggressive look from a marketing perspective.

On the other hand, the target can be centered as much as possible. Combined with the stiffest drivetrain in the model field – to compensate for the heavy front engine – and uniform front and rear wheels (31 cm) to distribute the hybrid’s power evenly, the all-wheel drive racer had a lot of good arguments for its form. .

Peugeot Sport

When creating the Peugeot 9X8, the engineers assumed the original electric front extension and tires of the same size.

Steep learning curve and BOP concern

In reality, however, the plan failed more often than it worked. Similar to System 1, engineers needed a long time to understand the complexity of their ground effect concept. The drivers were able to exploit the potential of the concept, especially on interesting tracks such as Qatar and Monza, where the 9X8 achieved its podium results so far. In addition, the problems of the usual technology hindered the men of Stellantis sports director Jean-Marc Finot several times. For example, transmission was not always stable.

The low point of the project was last year’s edition of the 1,000 Miles of Sebring. The Peugeot 9X8 passed through Waterloo on the Floridian airport circuit. This March weekend, those involved made the decision that a change was needed. “We understood that the level of performance equality could make life difficult for us in the long run. As it was, we could not be competitive,” explains Finot.

But the BOP was only a symptom of the great imbalance of control. “We designed our car in 2021 with LMH principles. Based on these, we used tires of the same width for the simulation. This is the basis for considering balance. We were proud to develop the concept of all-wheel drive and the ratio “To create 50/50.” At this point , his team also assumed that the threshold for hybrid activation will be 120 km / h.

Peugeot 9X8 2024 - Le Mans hypercar with rear wing

Peugeot Sport

By Sebring 2023 soon, it was clear that the 9X8 would have to be adapted to the changed conditions.

Traction problems

But then a big change came through the late integration between LMH and the American style principles of LMDh (eg Porsche 963). “Unfortunately, just a few months later, the speed limit was increased. Toyota also managed to get the tire sizes approved to be 29 cm front and 34 cm rear. It was already too late for us to react to that.” Because the 9X8 had to stay true to its concept of balance, it fell behind, especially in slow corners.

“We lacked traction on technical tracks with tight corners. As a result, drivability and comfort suffered for our pilots, who struggled to keep the tires alive.” For his team, this unfortunate situation meant double the workload in the last twelve months. While the team wanted to complete the season and the important home race of Le Mans as well as possible, a new aero package had to be developed at the same time.

For the sports director of Stellantis, the coming together of the two principles is the beginning of the development that has now led to the rear wing. But the difficulty of BOP creators in dealing with this would be the deciding factor in the end. “We would prefer to save ourselves the extra work. Especially when you see that with a good specification like in Qatar it works well. But since the BOP was limited, the change in philosophy remains the rear wing and the big rear wheels. without an alternative.”

Peugeot 9X8 2024 - Le Mans hypercar with rear wing

Peugeot Sport

Although Peugeot was at the forefront in Qatar under its power, the BOP and the model had reached the limit.

90 percent adjusted

According to technical director Olivier Jansonnie, simply adding a rear wing was not enough. “90 percent of the car was reworked. We also worked on the durability of the engine.” Jean-Marc Finot adds: “We had to move the balance of the aero to support the rear wheels. For this reason, the parts and the ballast moved to the back.” In theory, it would even be possible to rely on the subfloor for this as well, as the window of law would again provide the necessary freedom. Besides the extra calculations, this would force new crash tests. So the runner’s bones are fine.

The new concept was put on the track for the first time in December 2023. “The test car at Le Castellet was close to the current level, but it needed more modifications. Among other things, the team collected additional references in the wind tunnel. More than a month ago we drove in Portimão.” The pilots were able to travel between 7,000 and 8,000 kilometers. Last week the team was also in Aragon, Spain. What is the initial conclusion?

“The car is faster, but of course we are not revealing the level yet. If you consider that the 2023 model was already more competitive with the correct BOP, the sign is good.” Because of this, the French do not want to make any predictions about the intended start in Imola. People are just as cautious about getting to know the new tire size. “But I can say one thing: We are in the WEC to be at the front and win the race. Since Imola is specific due to the height differences, needing corners and tight barriers, it will be difficult to draw any major conclusions from that.”

Peugeot 9X8 2024 - Le Mans hypercar with rear wing

Peugeot Sport

The rear wing is connected by four struts that attach to the large rear wheel arches. Lower control is located further forward.

Drivers can go harder

Pilots presented positive results in a two-day test in Aragon. Swiss Nico Müller reports: “We have made progress in the areas we wanted to improve. Now it is important to improve the performance window and achieve better lap times.” Of course, it is too early to tell what the reality of the competition will be.

The biggest change to the old DTM driver is in the configuration area. But he also had to adapt to his driving habits. “You can drive more like you’re used to in other cars. The original car reacted very sensitively to inputs. You had to be careful not to push too hard and overtake it. The Evo variant allows for a tighter car, which is more natural for us drivers.”

However, the car is basically the same. “You can feel the changes right after you turn off the hole limit. That doesn’t mean everything is better per second. Shifted parameters mean effects that you have to react to differently.” Müller’s hope is to continue what he started in Qatar with the 9X8 in 2024. “We had a narrow configuration window there, but with the new one it should be wider.” He and his colleagues always want to be aggressive and finally assert their icon status successfully.