Following the appointment of Olivier Quesnel to the helm of Peugeot (Motor) Sport, the brand is determined to move forward from the disappointment of 2008 where it came so close to winning the Le Mans 24 Hours with the 908 HDi FAP.
The entire team is today fully focused on this year's programme, beginning with its efforts to iron out the shortcomings that handicapped its bid for victory last year at Le Mans. These areas include optimisation of the traction control system, preventing the radiators from getting choked up and improvements to the fitment of the wheels with a view facilitating their replacement by the mechanics. Meanwhile, it has been a case of adapting the 908 to the latest ACO regulations which target a significant curbing of performance.
"The engine settings have been completely revised to take onboard the new air restrictor dimensions and the lower turbo pressure which has resulted in a fall in power of approximately 10 per cent," explains Peugeot Sport's Technical Director Bruno Famin. "Significant work has gone into the 908's aerodynamics, too, in order to re-optimise the car's balance following the notable reduction in the width of rear wings which has been cut from two to 1.60 metres. We are also continuing with development work aimed at putting air-conditioning in the cockpit with a view to ensuring that the temperature inside the car stays within the regulatory threshold.
"At the same time, we are working on enhancing the car's performance potential. This includes ongoing work on weight reduction in a bid to get close to the minimum limit, even with air conditioning, as well as optimisation of the diesel engine's combustion, particulate filters (in association with Dow) and fuel injection (with Bosch), plus research into defining best possible chassis/tyre package (with Michelin)."
"Our busy test programme notably includes endurance simulation tests at a variety of circuits, and we will take part in two races upstream of Le Mans which will serve as fullscale dress rehearsals for everyone in the team," Mr Quesnel explains. "We have consequently chosen to compete in March's 12 Hours of Sebring, which is the opening round of the American Le Mans Series, with two cars and six drivers. We will then take three cars in Belgium for the 1,000km of Spa- Francorchamps in May (8-10). We haven't yet decided what our programme after the Le Mans 24 Hours will be.
"We are looking at the different options to ensure the best possible exposure for the brand in promotional and media coverage terms, and also as a function of the level of competition. Last but not least, the livery of the 908 HDi FAP has changed. All the cars will now be predominantly blue, with the cockpit covered in a reflective chromelike aluminium covering aimed at keeping the temperature inside the car to a minimum. This endurance programme is only possible thanks to the assistance of our partners."