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Mueller: Bahrain Race Outing Will Boost 2023 Prep

Nico Mueller says driving Peugeot 9X8 ‘feels more natural every lap’…

Photo: MPS Agency

Nico Mueller says his race debut with Peugeot in this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship season finale in Bahrain will help him be better prepared for a full-season assault with the team in 2023.

Mueller joins the lineup for the No. 94 Peugeot 9X8 for the first time at the 8 Hours of Bahrain, teaming up with Loic Duval and Gustavo Menezes.

The Swiss driver steps into a racing role with Peugeot a race earlier than expected, as he was originally announced to have joined the team for the 2023 season.

His race debut was subsequently moved forward to the Bahrain finale when James Rossiter opted out from the program to focus on a team principal role with the Maserati MSG Racing Formula E team.

Rossiter, the test and reserve driver, had taken part in races at Monza and Fuji.

Mueller said the option was always there for him to travel to Bahrain in a racing capacity with Peugeot, although it depended on his performance in testing with the team.

The two-time DTM runner-up completed one test outing with the French squad at Monza.

“It’s not been a full surprise, to be honest,” Mueller said of his race debut.

“We always kind of kept the option open, depending on what happens in testing, if I get some running under my belt before the race would happen.

“I think it would not have made sense to come here without any testing experience, but when we then got the chance to do Monza, that went really well and the simulator preparation also went according to plan.

“Then obviously one thing came together with the other as James got a new job. One thing led to the other. I think it’s something we targeted and then things matched up. Happy to be here.”

Mueller says that his laps turned in race conditions against the likes of Hypercar rivals Toyota in Bahrain will be of significant benefit to get him further up to speed ahead of the 2023 season.

While Peugeot has so far faced Toyota, Alpine and Glickenhaus upon its return to top-level prototype racing, next year will see the arrival of new efforts from manufacturers Porsche, Ferrari and Cadillac.

“I would lie if I say that everything feels completely natural already, but I know where everything is,” Mueller said of the 9X8.

“I hit the right buttons and with every lap it feels more and more natural. Every lap I can get under my belt for this weekend will help a lot in preparation for next year and that’s where the focus lies.

“Still, when you go and race, you always want to do well. We’ve got ourselves into a situation where we are ready enough to do the job on a race weekend, but the focus is still on preparation for 2023.”

Jansonnie: Mueller Brings “Fresh Ideas” to Team

Peugeot technical director Olivier Jansonnie said he was happy with the opportunity to get Mueller into the team, exclaiming he provides the squad with “very valuable input.”

The Frenchman noted that the Swiss drivers’ arrival will inject the squad with ‘fresh ideas’, coming in with an outside perspective on the 9X8 as opposed to Peugeot’s five other drivers that have been in car development from the start.

“Very interesting,” said Jansonnie. “He went into the car and was very focused from the beginning without making any mistakes at all, which is always the main thing.

“It’s a very valuable input when you get a new driver from that level in the car.

“All the other drivers have learned the car for more than a year now. They learned all the good things and also the bad things, and somehow they got used to it.

“So it’s useful to have a fresh eye telling you something that is not normal.

“The other ones are used to it and learned how to live with the weaknesses we have. So it’s quite interesting to get someone with fresh ideas.”

Mueller, for his part, appreciated the team’s openness to his suggestions despite his relative lack of experience within the program.

“After a long time with the same time I think this is really refreshing and helps to widen my horizon as well,” he said.

“It’s cool to see that also the inputs that I can bring from my experiences are really welcomed straight away.

“Even though I’m the least experienced in the team with the car and the whole organization, they’re very open for new inputs.

“I’ve been welcomed extremely warmly, so the transition has been made very easy for me.”

Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report

Davey Euwema is Sportscar365's European Editor. Based in The Netherlands, Euwema covers the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, among other series.

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