The Peugeot 908 HDi FAP Prototype
A lengthy press conference this morning,
Thursday, at Le Mans gave us a chance to hear many more details
(and a few more tantalizing hints) of the Peugeot LMP1 programme
first announced here last year.
The conference was called to unveil the 5.5 litre
twin turbo V12 that will power a pair of Peugeot 908s at the 2007
Le Mans 24 hours.
The engine is a 100 degree V12 twin turbo with a
pair of Peugeot particulate filters. The initial performance figures
are very impressive, with more than 700 bhp and more than 1200 Nm
The 100 degree V-angle has been chosen to allow
“the centre of gravity of the engine to be kept as low as
possible, without affecting the torsional rigidity of the package”.
The diesel route was a logical one for Peugeot to
take. Its worldwide sales are now dominated by diesels with 60%
of the company’s total sales now featuring its HDi engines
(70% in France).
There was much play on the fact that the core elements
of the engine programme (Peugeot HDi technology and the inclusion
of particulate filters) began in the company’s road cars before
evolving into the race cars: the opposite is usually true of factory
There may be a further significant decision to come
in the next few weeks, with a very active consideration being given
to using bio diesel for the programme.
Total Fuels, Bosch and Michelin will be the principal
technical partners for the programme.
There was further
confirmation, from the Director of Peugeot Sport Jean-Pierre Nicolas
(on the left, below), that a full scale mock-up of the car will
be presented at the Paris Motor Show in September, ahead of a first
track test in late 2006, Eric Helary having already been named as
the designated test driver for the initial programme (Helary of
course having been part of the 1993 winning driver squad aboard
the Peugeot 905).
There is no confirmation yet whether the car will
be open-topped or a closed ‘coupe’ “It is a bit
early to talk of that,” but the factory team has confirmed
that the chassis will be built in-house (after rejecting the adaptation
of an “existing chassis”) and that two cars will contest
the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours. “That does not mean that there
won’t be more later though.”
Peugeot has made it clear that its initial ambitions
are relatively modest, drawing comparisons with the initial programme
in the early 1990s with the Group C Peugeot 905.
“For 2007 the test programme will only allow
4-5 months of real running. We will however include three endurance
tests of at least 24 hours.”
Could an entry at Sebring be part of that early
“Sebring is a good test of any race car but
we will see whether the progress we make with testing makes that
though the game plan is clear, Frederic St. Geours, CEO of PSA –
“For 2008 our objective is to win Le Mans”
There is a subtle but significant change in the
soundbites being employed by Peugeot this year. The initial announcement
of the programme last year included the mission statement that “Peugeot
want to be the first to win Le Mans with a diesel-powered car.”
The mission now is clearly rather more centred around beating Audi,
and perhaps hoping that the Ingolstadt steamroller stumbles for
the next two races.
It was made explicitly clear though that Peugeot
does not envisage this as simply a two year project, the clear indication
being that the company intends this to be the principal motorsport
programme for several years to come, after their recent withdrawal
from the World Rally Championship.
A factory effort in the Le Mans Series looks certain
for 2008 with a partial 2007 programme looking likely too, but aside
from Sebring it seems that the ALMS is unlikely to be graced by
“As far as America is concerned, the US is
not a priority for us. We do not sell road cars in that market and
whilst we are interested in beating our competitors we will not
commit to the ALMS.”
On the question of drivers there was little of concrete
detail aside from Helary’s confirmation as test driver, and
the unsurprising revelation that Peugeot has already begun talking
to “a large number of potential drivers.”
One thing is clear though, this is not going to
be an all-French line-up “This is not going to be a Franco-French
approach, we may have 2, 3 or 4 French drivers.”
There was talk of a working list of 14 drivers with
a shortlist of 6 or 7 under consideration for inclusion in the squad.
After the exploits of Sebastien Loeb here over the last two years
there was an almost inevitable question over the potential for Peugeot’s
rallying hero to join the team.
“Marcus (Gronholm) is not at all interested
in this form of racing.” That’s that settled then!
One other famous name was mentioned – Is there
any role envisaged for Henri Pescarolo in the programme?
“We have worked already with Henri in a consulting
role on various aspects of the programme. He has taken part in several
key meetings up until the end of 2005. As for any further involvement,
there is nothing planned. But you never know.”
A degree of
further probing though revealed the potential for Pescarolo to potentially
adopt a team management role akin to that which Jean Todt adopted
with the 905 project. The price though would be that his own team
would have to cease sportscar racing operations: depending on the
result of this weekend’s endeavours, that might be an easier
choice to make for Henri.