Peugeot is unlikely to re-enter endurance racing in the near future, with the French manufacturer having announced Wednesday an increased involvement in the FIA World Rallycross Championship for 2018.
Nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb will represent Peugeot in WRX next year, in a stepped up effort from this year’s works-supported program with Hansen Motorsport.
The move, believed to be influenced by the soon-to-be all-electric WRX class, has essentially ruled out a Peugeot LMP1 effort, which had been under evaluation for at least the last 24 months.
“The brand wants to embark on a new challenge with the idea of accompanying our own energy transition but also to create a strong and unique bond with new customers and the new generation,” said Peugeot CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato.
Talks between Peugeot and the ACO had intensified since Audi’s withdrawal from the FIA World Endurance Championship late last year, with a new set of LMP1 regulations for 2020, developed with input from Peugeot, having been presented at Le Mans in June.
Plans for rapid-charging hybrid plug-in systems, however, were abandoned less than two months later after Porsche’s announcement that it would also exit the top prototype class, forcing a complete re-think of the future LMP1 regulations.
ACO Responds to Peugeot’s Decision
The ACO has “accepted” Peugeot’s decision to intensify its WRX program instead of a re-entry into LMP1 competition, but has not given up hope for the automaker to return to endurance racing in the future.
“We can only accept it and fix an appointment with them in the years to come to prove to them the interest of our branch of motorsport, and the validity of the direction taken in endurance in the areas of cost capping and technology, which other manufacturers and other teams working alongside us will prove to them,” a statement from the ACO read.
“We’re pursuing our strategy built around an accessible blue-riband category with budgets that are much smaller than those required in recent years: these grew exponentially as was very often the case in the past because of the involvement of several manufacturers.
“We’ll adapt ourselves to this natural cycle in endurance and take appropriate action.
“More than ever our approach is constructive, and we’re actively engaged in boosting the appeal of endurance in a changing global context.”
The ACO has yet to reveal its revised 2020 LMP1 regulations, with talks understood to still be ongoing with IMSA for a possible new global ruleset incorporating next-generation DPis.