Peugeot has unveiled the Peugeot 9X8 hypercar. The French automaker plans to enter the hybrid race car in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the WEC World Endurance Championship from 2022.
Peugeot last competed at Le Mans between 2007 and 2011, at that time with a diesel-fuelled racing car called the 908, to which the successor 9X8 alludes, supplemented by the reference to all-wheel drive. Incidentally, a hybrid version of the 908 already developed for 2012 never ran a race – Peugeot had discontinued the Le Mans program for financial reasons despite the fact that the hybrid car was ready.
The French manufacturer decided to return to the race with a so-called Le Mans Hypercar (LMH), the successor category to the LMP1 cars. Participation with a so-called LMDh prototype would also have been possible. In the technical regulations for the top category in the North American IMSA racing series, the “D” here stands for the 24 Hours of Daytona. With these vehicles, participation in both Le Mans and Daytona is possible – Audi and Porsche have opted for this route, intending to compete from 2023. BMW is taking on a special role: The Munich-based company has announced the development of an LMDh race car, but so far only for North America and a start at Le Mans has not been confirmed.
There are similarities, for example, in the hybrid drive system that is mandatory for carmakers. “The new Le Mans Hypercar regulations were drawn up to level out the importance of conventional performance-boosting systems,” explains Olivier Jansonne, Technical Director of the WEC program at Peugeot. The complex hybrid systems of the predecessor category called LMP1 were to be simplified.
While the LMP1 race cars with electric motors on the turbocharger, rear axle and front axle briefly made it to over 1,000 hp, the drive power of the LMW race cars is capped at 500 kW or 680 hp. The 2.6-litre V6 with two turbochargers developed by Peugeot produces exactly that 500 kW. In other words, when the 200 kW electric motor is working on the front axle, the output of the combustion engine must be reduced accordingly – so that the car does not deliver more than 500 kW at any time.
The electrical energy is stored in a 900-volt battery developed jointly by Peugeot Sport and Total subsidiary Saft. The umbrella owner of Peugeot, Stellantis, has brought Saft onboard as a partner in the Stellantis battery factories for road cars.
The endurance races also focus on powertrain efficiency – if the car is more fuel-efficient, it will need to refuel less often. “Our target with regard to our energy requirements is flawless reliability and perfect control,” explains Jean-Marc Finot, motorsport director at Stellantis. “Le Mans has become a 24-hour sprint race that can be won or lost by the number of times you pit. The exceptional energy-efficiency of the new Hypercars prefigures what we will see shortly in the world of road cars.”
The differences between LMH and LMDh: While an LMDh race car is less expensive (it uses a chassis from a supplier, for example), developers have more freedom with hypercars. Or as Peugeot explains, the greater flexibility that the sport’s new technical regulations allow in terms of aerodynamics allows radical new thinking that favours the creation of innovative vehicles.”
One such result is that the 9X8 does not require a classic rear wing. “the regulations stipulate that only one adjustable aerodynamic device is permitted, without specifying the rear wing,” says Jansonne. “Our calculation work and simulations revealed that high performance was effectively possible without one.”
Of the well-known automakers, Toyota has also developed a hypercar but unlike Peugeot, the Toyota TS050 Hybrid has been in use since this season. This season, the Toyota hybrid will only compete against hypercars from private teams ByKolles and Glickenhaus, which are allowed to forgo a hybrid powertrain for cost reasons. In 2022, the 9X8 hypercar from Peugeot will join the field, followed in 2023 by the LMDh race cars from Porsche, Audi and possibly BMW. Ferrari also plans to enter a hypercar in 2023. However, details of the Le Mans Ferrari are not yet known.
Reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.
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