James Rossiter says the Peugeot Hypercar squad feels “more confident” about its LMH package and team operation heading into the program’s second FIA World Endurance Championship race, after a smooth start to the 6 Hours of Fuji weekend.
The French manufacturer encountered no notable issues on its two Peugeot 9X8s during the pair of 90-minute Free Practice sessions held on Friday.
Peugeot is contesting the final three races of this year’s WEC season to prepare for a full-time campaign in 2023.
The team’s debut at the 6 Hours of Monza in July resulted in one car retiring after experiencing software glitches and the other finishing 25 laps down following some overheating issues caused by debris in the gearbox radiator.
Peugeot then tested twice in Spain before heading to Fuji, and Rossiter suggested that the team feels it is in a better situation having accrued some more mileage in private.
“I think already from the testing we’ve had since Monza, we know that we’re going to have less reliability issues,” Rossiter told Sportscar365.
“We have a deeper understanding of the car and we’re really focusing on having a reliable racing car for Sunday.
“We still learned a lot this afternoon. This morning gave us the confidence that we’re not so far off when we get it in the right window.
“We have to see how the rest of the weekend goes, but we’re definitely more confident here than we were in Monza.”
Rossiter, who shares the No. 94 Peugeot with Loic Duval and Gustavo Menezes, explained that the mood in the six-driver lineup is “calmer” approaching the Fuji round.
“In terms of driver confidence, everyone is calmer this weekend compared to Monza,” he said.
“We’re all working very well together as a team. That’s something that has improved a lot.
“After the first race, everyone knows we’re all here and we all worked hard to get the same results from the car in testing. We’re all very much in the same page, which helps a lot.
“And just having a deeper knowledge having done the race in Monza… Loic and I did double stints so we’re going to have more knowledge of what we need in the car come Sunday.”
Duval was also encouraged by Peugeot’s Friday showing. He described the LMH program as “a lot to digest” for a team that has been newly assembled for the WEC, considering the last Peugeot sports prototype venture ended a decade ago.
“I believe that it was a really good opportunity and a really good choice to go racing in Monza,” the Frenchman told Sportscar365.
“For us, it was quite positive in terms of performance, but also the amount of laps and what we learned from it. We learned a lot that we would not have learned by testing alone.”
When asked to quantify the progression since Monza, Duval replied: “It’s a big step.
“We’ve been testing and we’ve been improving the feeling we had with the car. If you look at the Friday, we had fewer issues here than we had at Monza.
“The target is to carry on, so it’s already a step forward. We might have a race without any problems, but we might have reliability issues. We go step by step and see how it goes.”
Technical director Jansonnie assessed the first day of track running at Fuji as “plain sailing” and that it looked “more like a normal day” compared to the Friday at Monza, where the No. 94 car lost track time during the first session due to a mechanical issue.
“It’s a huge step forward compared to what we did in Monza, but the road is still very long for us,” he said.
“Probably yes [we can challenge] in some conditions. But the main thing, to challenge in the complete six hours in changing conditions, is still a little bit far.”
Jean-Marc Finot, the head of Stellantis Motorsport, added: “It was a comfortable day today compared with Monza.
“We have been working hard this summer to improve both the reliability and the setup. We made a run plan and we have scrolled through it without any issues.”