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Peugeot Announces LMH Driver Lineup

Peugeot announces LMH driver lineup ahead of company’s return to endurance racing…

Image: Automobiles Peugeot

Peugeot has named the drivers who will represent the French manufacturer on its return to sports car racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s Hypercar category.

Paul di Resta, Kevin Magnussen, Jean-Eric Vergne, Loic Duval, Mikkel Jensen and Gustavo Menezes will drive Peugeot’s hybrid-powered Le Mans Hypercar, which is due to make its debut in the WEC’s top prototype division at an undefined point next year.

The main group of six will be supported by James Rossiter, who has been named as the program’s reserve and simulator driver.

Peugeot’s Hypercar lineup, which is set to compete for outright wins against Toyota, Glickenhaus and upcoming LMDh programs from the likes of Audi and Porsche, combines drivers with recent experience in various prototype racing formulas.

However, the decade-long gap between Peugeot’s last top-level prototype venture and now has resulted in a completely different lineup from when the brand was in LMP1.

Duval is the only member of the squad who drove the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP and is also the only driver in the group to have previously won Le Mans outright, with Audi in 2013.

Additionally, only Duval has prior factory experience of the hybrid LMP1 era, coming into Peugeot’s integration of hybrid-electric technology into its new LMH product.

Magnussen is the newest to sports cars, having recently made his endurance debut in last month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona with the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi team.

The Dane has switched over from Formula 1, where he drove for Haas for four seasons until the end of last year, and will pilot Ganassi’s Cadillac full-time in the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in preparation for his WEC debut with Peugeot.

Double Formula E champion Vergne provides a link between brands formerly part of the PSA Group that now come under the new Stellantis automotive conglomerate.

Vergne drives for Peugeot’s sister brand DS Techeetah in the electric single-seater series, while Peugeot is known to be leveraging experience from the Formula E side of the Stellantis group for its application of a 500 kW hybrid powertrain in LMH.

Vergne, who is set for his top-level endurance debut, has been driving for G-Drive Racing in LMP2 over the past three years and was key to the Russian-backed squad’s 2018 European Le Mans Series title triumph.

In a similar manner, fellow ex-F1 driver di Resta contributed to United Autosports’ WEC LMP2 success last season but missed out on the drivers’ title due to missing a race.

The 2010 DTM champion also won the LMP2 class at Le Mans on his third appearance in the event with United.

Former BMW factory driver Jensen drove for G-Drive in the 2020 ELMS season, one year on from capturing the LMP3 crown, and helped the team to finish third in the LMP2 standings behind United’s pair of entries.

Menezes arrives into the Peugeot program having taken Rebellion to third in the 2019-20 WEC points after a run that included race victories in China and the United States.

The Californian is set to become the first driver to race for two different LMH constructors, following his recent signing with Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus for 2021.

Test and reserve driver Rossiter, meanwhile, has prior LMP1 experience with ByKolles.

The British driver previously drove for Toyota brand Lexus in Super GT for six seasons before joining Nissan for a single campaign in 2019.

Peugeot has not determined the exact driving combinations for its two-car LMH entry.

“The quality of the relationship between everybody involved in the project is fundamental,” said Stellantis Motorsport director Jean-Marc Finot.

“Over and above their individual racing skills, the main criteria we took into account when assessing and talking with drivers were the ties they have with each other, their mindset and their ability to work together to motivate and help take the team forward, because the human factor plays such a big part in endurance racing.

“We also wanted to establish that they saw their commitment with us as a priority and not just a line on their CV.”

Peugeot Sport’s WEC program technical director Olivier Jansonnie added: “We looked at all the endurance racing championships that have been organized over the past five years.

“We didn’t just take individual results into consideration. We also examined the speed, consistency and reliability of a long list of drivers because we are looking for a line-up that meshes together well, with an eclectic mix of upcoming youngsters and experienced campaigners with proven development skills, especially in the field of hybrid power trains.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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