Peugeot’s choice to return to top-level endurance racing with a Le Mans Hypercar instead of the LMDh platform came down to the “technical challenge” that LMH offers, according to brand CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato.
The French manufacturer confirmed on Friday that it will build a bespoke prototype for its planned FIA World Endurance Championship debut in 2022, after initially evaluating ACO and IMSA’s new global formula that would have resulted in a significant cost saving.
Instead, Peugeot will follow in the footsteps of Toyota in developing its own chassis and hybrid powertrain, along with opting for a four-wheel-drive design by a front axle-mounted electric motor on its yet-to-be-named LMH car.
Speaking to Sportscar365, Imperato said the increased design freedoms and technology were the two key selling points.
“In terms of values for Peugeot, I had a hard time to imagine any other decision than the more demanding one, in terms of technical challenge,” Imperato said.
“Having studied that, we decided to go in LMH and say, ‘OK, we know there’s some challenge in front of us.’ But we have to be humble and start working and to write something that’s consistent with our history.
“Our history is made around motorsport… In this scope I cannot write the chapter the story of this brand without being in the most demanding [platform].
“It was part of the evaluations we were studying but at one point of time I asked Olivier [Jansonnie] and Jean-Marc [Finot], ‘Hey guys, what is the most demanding one and what do you think in terms of technological challenge?’
“The answer, LMH, seems to be the most tricky one to copy, so let’s go.”
Imperato said part of Peugeot’s return to endurance racing has been fueled by the brand’s plan to “create a link” between its road car and motorsports departments.
“Motorsport is a tool and there’s perfect convergence between these regulations and our strategy at the moment,” he said.
“Fortunately we had to have the two elements on the table but we put first the challenge in terms of sport and design second.”
Peugeot Sport WEC technical director Olivier Jansonnie added that there were two key factors in their decision.
“One is the complete freedom we have on the shape of the car,” he told Sportscar365.
“In terms of the look and design, which is an opportunity for us to integrate many of the [styling cues] from the brand. This is something that’s very appealing.
“The second is the hybrid link.
“With LMH there’s four-wheel drive, which is something we found is [similar] to the line of Peugeot street cars, where we use the opportunity of the hybrid to [transform] a two-wheel drive car to a four-wheel drive car.
“It works very well with our marketing strategy.”
LMH Has Forced Peugeot to “Reset Our Minds”
Jansonnie, the former technical director for Peugeot’s Dakar and WRX programs who most recently worked at Ligier Automotive, said the FIA and ACO’s new-for-2021 regulations has led to a complete reset of what’s possible.
“The concept of the LMH regulations are very different from what we’ve seen before with LMP1 and LMP2 because of the BoP, for sure,” he said.
“Also because it gives an incredible amount of freedom in the design by letting the engineers design the car with almost [complete] freedom.
“In order to stop the performance from increasing vertically, some functions and parameters of the car are capped.
“For aero efficiency, you’re free to develop most whatever you’d like on the car. The level of [restrictions] are very low compared to LMP1.
“At the end of the day you are given a number for aero efficiency and you cannot exceed that limit. You can do almost whatever you like but you’re capped on performance.
“And that’s a very different mindset in terms of everything we’ve seen before.
“We’ve had to reset our minds into working inside the new regulations.”
While Peugeot has yet to confirm whether it will commit to the full 2022 WEC season, Jansonnie said they plan to have a complete car testing on-track by the end of next year.
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report