A homecoming full of expectations. Peugeot-Sport returns for the centenary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which takes place this weekend on the Sarthe circuit, ten years after its last participation in the most famous endurance race. The French manufacturer is entering two 9x8s, its spoilerless concept car, number 93 will be driven by the trio Paul Di Resta, Mikkel Jensen and Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne while number 94 will welcome James Rossiter, Gustavo Menezes and Loïc Duval. The winner of the 2013 edition confides in 20 minutes before Peugeot’s great return to Le Mans.
What does the 24 Hours of Le Mans represent for Peugeot-Sport?
The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a bit like the special event of this program, and inevitably it is an important objective for the team, for the brand. You have to prepare for it as well as possible, there is a lot of competition and a lot of expectation. The closer you get to it, the more the pressure mounts.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the 9×8 concept without a rear wing?
I don’t really feel a difference from the concept. I don’t see any disadvantage on paper in any case, I feel like in a prototype, the car behaves very well. In feeling, in behavior, whether there is a fin or not, we don’t feel it. It’s above all the weight, these are very heavy cars, there you can feel a difference. The car is very well born.
What will be most important for Peugeot-Sport during these 24 Hours of Le Mans?
What is especially important for us, for this first meeting at Le Mans, is to have reliability that allows us to race without major problems. This is the most important thing in this discipline, to find reliability as quickly as possible. Beyond how the car behaves and the feeling of the driver, it has to do laps. In terms of performance and behavior, we have made progress, there is always development being done. But again, the main thing is reliability.
How do you compare to your opponents?
Toyota is the leader, obviously it is the one we imagine winning with its expertise and experience. It is already their second hypercar. Ferrari did a good job, I think it was the team that tested the most. We are more or less with Porsche. But yes, we will be more likely to win the 24 Hours next year than this year, it’s very complicated.
There are new manufacturers, so more competition, but that’s also revitalizing the discipline…
The goal is hard, high, but very sexy. We are lucky to be an actor in a golden area. We feel it at Peugeot-Sport, we feel it in the group, between us the drivers, on the sale of tickets for Le Mans. We see it with all the builders arriving and next year there will still be new ones. We have a few good years ahead.
What are your goals for this 2023 season?
Several podiums, that’s more the goal. Having clean races without technical problems is important. Having a lot of fun and working to be able on a lap at pure speed, not to miss out, on the driver and mechanics side, but also in strategy. We are a young team, the team has been restructured, we remain a young team, there are plenty of things to put in place. We will have to catch up on Toyota.
What did the first races of the season bring you?
They allowed us to develop the car, and to develop as a team, that’s important. It is necessary to avoid tensions, to know each other. Create chemistry between teammates. We all get along very well, so it’s nice.