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Peugeot “Matching Experience and Youth” in LMH Squad Choice

Peugeot focused on gathering mix of “experience and energy” for hybrid Hypercar project…

Image: Peugeot

Peugeot placed importance on “matching experience and youth” for its 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship Le Mans Hypercar driving squad, according to senior figures from the company’s factory hybrid program.

Peugeot unveiled its seven-man driving squad on Monday, featuring six full-time competition drivers and James Rossiter who will hold a reserve and simulator-based role.

The group, which was labeled “seven drivers, one team”, includes ex-Formula 1 competitors Kevin Magnussen, Jean-Eric Vergne and Paul di Resta, all of whom have or will have gained extensive prototype racing experience by the end of this year.

Vergne also brings electric powertrain experience to the effort, as a double Formula E champion with Peugeot’s fellow Stellantis automotive group brand DS Automobiles.

Sports car rookie Magnussen, 28, will drive for Chip Ganassi Racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship this year, while di Resta is a reigning 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 class winner.

Loic Duval – who lends his LMP1 hybrid tenure with Audi to the group – and 26-year-olds Gustavo Menezes and Mikkel Jensen have also raced prototypes in recent years.

Speaking in a press conference after the announcement, the head of Stellantis Motorsport Jean-Marc Finot explained the rationale behind Peugeot’s team composition.

“I think we have a good matching of experience and youth,” he said.

“We have all the experiences: energy management experience, hybrid experience. We have ways of working with the car manufacturer experience.

“I am sure that we will have a very good development of the car to go to, maybe not victory at the beginning, but to be very competitive.

“We are convinced that we have chosen the best team. All these drivers have qualities expected from their teammates: that they are fast, reliable, consistent and also a family. So it was the basis to build a team. We will build the project together with all drivers.”

Technical director Olivier Jansonnie added that Peugeot “went through the statistics” of sports car championships such as the WEC, IMSA and the European Le Mans Series to find the right mix of “experience and energy”.

A significant focus has been placed on recruiting drivers with a sports car background, rather than integrating drivers from other top-line formulas into endurance racing.

The exception to that philosophy is F1 refugee Magnussen, however the Dane will have had a full term of DPi under his belt by the time Peugeot’s car makes its debut in 2022.

“With the exception of Kevin, we picked those who all have very strong experience in sports car racing,” said Jansonnie.

“I think also nowadays, high-level racing drivers are competing in several championships at the same time. Kevin has experience in F1 which is obviously a very good reference as well.

“About the youngsters, it was important to have a good mix of experience and younger guys.

“We think it’s important to put [in] some fresh drivers and energy to have the best mix of all. It’s a mix of experience and energy.”

Following confirmation of his WEC debut next year, Magnussen highlighted the importance of learning from the sports car regulars around him to facilitate his adaptation to the series and Le Mans.

“There’s going to be a lot of experience to draw from in the team,” he said.

“Being new at Le Mans, I’m certainly going to be learning a lot. The first time I go there is certainly going to be a steep learning curve.

“But I’m looking forward to that. I have all the expertise available at hand in the team and with my teammates. So far, I think it’s still very early days in the project.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know these other drivers a bit better. Some of them I’ve raced against. Some of them I’ve met and some I haven’t met. I’m just excited to get started when we do.”

Peugeot Had “Some Opportunities” to Sign Toyota Drivers

Finot indicated that Peugeot looked at hiring some of Toyota’s now-confirmed LMH drivers but ultimately settled on a lineup with less LMP1 hybrid experience coming into the WEC’s new Hypercar hybrid era.

Peugeot’s absence from endurance racing since 2011 required the manufacturer to assemble its lineup from scratch, with the only manufacturer ties being in Formula E.

This was in stark contrast to Toyota, which opted to retain all six of its seasoned LMP1 hybrid drivers for its debut campaign with the new GR010 Hybrid LMH car this year.

“There were some opportunities with such drivers, but their expectations and our expectations didn’t match,” said Finot when asked about talks with Toyota drivers.

“We decided that the current lineup was the best for us.”

Finot added that in deciding its final crew, Peugeot only had room for one DS Techeetah Formula E representative with Vergne joining the ranks and Antonio Felix da Costa not being mentioned in the lineup announcement.

Both drivers have held recent LMP2 positions, with reigning FE champion da Costa driving for JOTA in WEC last season and Vergne representing G-Drive Racing in ELMS.

“This program with Formula E or the WEC program with Peugeot Sport is the same priority,” said Finot.

“We see that some drivers are already engaged in both championships with different manufacturers, so it means it is feasible.

“It is reasonable to have one. Two would have been tricky to manage.”

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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