The Chairman of Peugeot has revealed that two of the three conditions for the French automaker’s return to LMP1 competition have been met, although a potential future FIA World Endurance Championship program is still some ways from being confirmed.
Speaking with Endurance-Info in an exclusive interview, PSA chief Carlos Tavares admitted that rising costs in the top prototype ranks is still the major roadblock for the green light to be given on a factory effort.
“I have given three conditions for Peugeot’s possible return to endurance racing,” Tavares told Endurance-Info.
“The first was to straighten PSA [financially] and the goal has been reached. In the first half [of 2016], the PSA rate of return was the fourth of the global industry. Two years ago, the group was still almost bankrupt.
“The second condition was to win the Dakar, which was reached. The third is to stop the cost inflation in LMP1.”
Tavares, an amateur driver who took part in last weekend’s European Le Mans Series race at Spa-Francorchamps in an OAK Racing-entered Ligier JS P3, said he’s been in dialogue with the FIA and ACO on LMP1 cost control.
“If you put in ‘x’ millions [of Euros], we must ensure that profitability is good and better than the other vectors such as advertising in newspapers or on television,” he said.
“This raises the question of whether the WEC brings more [return] than Dakar. The advantage of WEC is to give free rein to innovation but the cost is significant.
“We’ve asked the FIA and ACO how we could stop this inflation and how it was possible to manage the arrival of new manufacturers.
“This third condition is not in my hands. But there are many ways to limit costs, including the aero development.”
Peugeot withdrew from LMP1 competition in early 2012, following a five-year run that included victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2009 and back-to-back Intercontinental Le Mans Cup titles in 2010-11.
It was estimated the French manufacturer was spending upwards of 50 million Euros annually at the time, with current LMP1 budgets more than double that, particularly from German juggernauts Audi and Porsche.
No timeline has been given on a potential re-entry, should the criteria be met.
It’s understood the ACO has been encouraging future LMP1 manufacturers to take a first step at Le Mans via a Garage 56 entry, which Tavares hasn’t ruled out either.
“Garage 56 is not totally excluded but it is too early,” he said. “The heart of the PSA competition is composed of 250 to 300 people with DS Performance, Peugeot Sport and Citroën Racing.
“For a new program, it is completely normal that the general director asks questions.
“Formula E is in the zeitgeist, WEC with new technologies also participate in tomorrow’s cars. The WEC is a success and the FIA and ACO are doing great work. The technologies are an accelerator for series of cars.”