Today’s big 9X8 Hypercar reveal from Peugeot is a landmark moment in the FIA WEC’s history, as the French automotive giant becomes the second major factory to show off a new car for the Hypercar formula, to compete against Toyota and Glickenhaus, and later Ferrari, Audi and Porsche.
This unveiling brings with it plenty of hope, optimism and excitement for the future of the sport, though there is still a lot we don’t yet know.
The biggest question currently unanswered is when we will see the car race for the first time. As it stands, ‘2022’ is all Peugeot will be held to, and DSC understands that there is not yet a firm date for the car’s race debut.
The good news is that the car is set to hit the track for the start of its testing programme in December, with everything currently on schedule to meet that target.
The engine is believed to have already been tested on the dyno, parts are already being manufactured and crash tested, and the car shown off today is, according to a source in the programme, “75-80% of what we will see on track”, with only minor tweaks expected to be made before its debut. As for the car’s battery, TotalEnergies is understood to be hard at work too and in the planning phase.
However, it appears that despite the constructor set to get the car rolling by the turn of the year, there is no guarantee that the car will compete at Peugeot’s home event, the Le Mans 24 Hours in June. FIA WEC social media accounts have stated today that it is ‘set to race at Le Mans in 2022’, but after multiple conversations with people involved in the programme, it appears that they are yet to fully make that commitment. The priority is that the car reaches its full potential performance before its debut.
One source told DSC that “the plan is to compete at Le Mans in 2022, ahead of a full-season programme in 2023, however this is hypothetical, and we have many milestones to achieve before that.”
Another source reiterated this and explained that despite it being tempting to run at Le Mans in 2022 as part of a smaller Le Mans Hypercar field before Ferrari, Porsche and Audi join in ’23, they are prepared to wait.
“The target has always been a mid-2022 debut,” they said, “so it may be after Le Mans. We don’t mind that 2022 presents a chance to win with fewer cars (in Hypercar), because we aim to beat whoever is in front of us anyway. We don’t want to over-promise, we want to do this the right way.”
Once the car does make its race debut, Peugeot has high hopes. Of the individuals involved in the programme that DSC has spoken to in recent months, one thing is clear: everyone is incredibly optimistic about the car, the ability of the team behind the scenes, and the working environment that management has sought to create.
A driver in the programme told DSC he is impressed with the atmosphere within the team and how organised everything is. “It already feels like a family,” he said. “It feels like we are all part of a big process, it’s tight knit.”
He also was keen to praise the amount of input that the drivers have had to this point. On a weekly basis, he said, drivers have been helping developing the simulator, and made “major strides”. They have had a say in the design of the cockpit too. “We have all had multiple fittings to help optimise the experience behind the wheel.”
Seeing the car for the first time was also a momentous occasion for the talent Peugeot has assembled to drive its new challenger. With its radical aero design and striking colour scheme, there is a belief that fans will flock to see it race and back Peugeot has it attempts to score its fourth Le Mans victory and a world championship.
“It all gave me goosebumps, this is the first car that lives up to the Hypercar formula’s expectations,” one of the drivers told DSC when asked about the experience of seeing the car in the flesh for the first time. “I stared at it for like 10 minutes.
“I’m impressed with how it highlights Peugeot car design, it looks like a real Peugeot, the future of Peugeot. For the first time in 15 years there will be a car racing for wins at Le Mans that kids will want to hang posters of up on their bedroom walls in huge numbers.
“I know that fans are going to really love this car, they are going to roar!”
Image courtesy of Peugeot Sport