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Peugeot Finding Sebring a “Tough Track” for 9X8

Peugeot 9X8 struggling for traction at “very specific” Sebring International Raceway…

Photo: Joao Filipe/DPPI

Loic Duval admitted that Peugeot is “not where we want to be in the game” after qualifying eighth and ninth for the 1000 Miles of Sebring at a “tough track” for the 9X8.

The best of the hybrid-powered Peugeots driven by Duval qualified 2.388 seconds off the pace of the pole-sitting Ferrari 499P, while Mikkel Jensen was 3.1 seconds off in the sister No. 93 car.

“I had a clean run, the visibility was poor with the setting sun, but it’s the same for everybody,” Duval said.

“I did two clean laps which were the fastest laps we have done so far so that’s positive.

“The only negative is that we are not where we want to be in the game. We are close to the Porsche but we want to be further in front.

“It’s a tough track for us — we are improving — qualifying was one step and now there is another step with the race. We will try to have a clean race, to be competitive and consistent with the tires.”

Head of Stellantis Motorsport Jean-Marc Finot added that the Peugeot 9X8s have struggled all week for traction out of corners.

The Peugeot 9X8 carries a front-axle hybrid system but it can only be deployed when the car reaches 150 km/h.

“We would have done better, would have been faster,” Finot said after qualifying.

“We have started the week and discovered the track. It was new for us. It was impressive how bumpy the track is.

“We have had some traction issues: it is very difficult to put the power on the front on our car, so we made big progress since the beginning of the week.

“We have been running close to three or four seconds [off the pace] but it’s not enough. Two seconds are still missing.

“As long as we haven’t reached the deployment speed of the front axle, we are struggling to put the power on the ground.”

Finot suggested that the Peugeot’s lack of pace compared to other Hypercar teams cannot be properly judged until the WEC visits more conventional circuits next month.

“It’s a very specific track, so we don’t make any conclusions before racing at different tracks,” he said.

“Maybe after Portimao or Spa we could have some outcomes. Today it’s very difficult to make a ranking considering our lack of experience of this track and [its] specificity.”

Peugeot made its WEC debut last year in a three-race program at Monza, Fuji and Bahrain where it encountered reliability issues at all three events despite flashes of strong pace.

It conducted private tests during the off-season, in part to address those problems, but didn’t run the 9X8 at Sebring until last weekend’s Prologue test.

When asked if the team is confident of racing trouble-free at Sebring, Finot said: “In this race, we can find new problems because we will run 1,000 miles on a very aggressive and bumpy track.

“This eight hours will be close to the stress we will get over 24 hours on a standard track. I think we could find out something [during the race].”

Porsche “Not Happy” With Quali Performance

As Ferrari, Toyota and Cadillac made up the qualifying top five, Porsche Penske Motorsport settled for sixth and seventh with its pair of factory Porsche 963s.

The German manufacturer ranked a second off the pace of fellow LMDh brand Cadillac and two seconds behind Antonio Fuoco’s leading Ferrari.

“We’re definitely not happy with our performance,” said Porsche’s factory LMDh program director Urs Kuratle.

“The fact is we’re not squeezing the upper limit out of our Porsche 963. We are convinced that the car is better than what we showed today.

“One aspect is the braking. We know for certain that we need to improve in that area. But we also can’t tap into the whole car package yet. This is especially true for qualifying.

“We anticipate our performance in the race to be much better, but we still have work to do there, too. We’ll get the full picture after the race.”

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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