Peugeot unveils the 9X8, its Hypercar which will compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans

On the track, there is no risk of missing the future Peugeot 9X8 of the 24 Hours of Le Mans (from 2022 or at the latest in 2023) or of confusing it with a competitor in the premier hypercar category. She is beautiful, spectacular and innovative.

The car unveiled on Tuesday by Peugeot Sport is still only a model produced in collaboration with the Peugeot Design teams. But according to the technical director and project manager, Olivier Jansonnie, and even if “Developments remain in progress after the first tests (by the end of the year) until its final homologation, the race car will look a lot like this one. The idea is to keep as many elements as possible. » And in particular what distinguishes it from the first glance: its total absence of a rear wing between the two vertical fins at the end of the wings. A drawing that evokes a little the first Porsche 917KH, at the beginning of the 70s…

The winning Porsche 917 KH at the 1971 24 Hours of Le Mans

The winning Porsche 917 KH at the 1971 24 Hours of Le Mans

We no longer imagined that it was possible, on a modern racing car, to do without such a spoiler to provide enough support and grip on the rear wheels. The new philosophy and technical definition of the hypercar, desired by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and the organizer of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), have opened a door: “the regulations set a ceiling for performance and downforce and drag values (resistance to forward movement in a straight line) identical for all competitorsexplains Olivier Jansonnie (the objective set is a time of 3’30 » per lap, at Le Mans). The few small differences in performance noted between competitors will be corrected over time by adjustments to the Balance of Performance (BOP supposed to guarantee this same level of speed between each). And as the degree of performance to be achieved is lower than it was for the old LMP1 prototypes, continues Olivier Jansonnie, we quickly realized that we could aim for it without resorting to that famous rear wing. »

« The 9X8 was indeed designed as a racing car: we made no compromise with the design on the performance needed to be achieved »

Olivier Jansonnie, Peugeot Sport Technical Director

The first tests of the Peugeot 9X8 (it is indeed its final name) will definitively validate this technical choice but the designer Michael Trouve who led this project under the direction of Matthias Hossann, the boss of Peugeot Design, intends to keep this differentiating idea. Who « clears the entire rear part between the wheels and behind the exhausts, gives this continuity of line to the engine cover underlined by the thin vertical backbone (no more imposing and unsightly vertical shark fin mandatory on LMP1!) and participates in the brand identity that we wanted to give to this 9X8 which is indeed a Peugeot. »

Seen from above, the very clear absence of the rear spoiler and a design of the lights which seem very exposed to shocks.  They may not be retained.  (DR/Peugeot/Media)

Seen from above, the very clear absence of the rear spoiler and a design of the lights which seem very exposed to shocks. They may not be retained. (DR/Peugeot/Media)

Even the cockpit flanks and the bottom of the hull feature a rather unusual convergence of soft lines from the sharp cuts of the old LMP1s.

One could almost fear that the 9X8 is first beautiful before being effective, but Olivier Jansonnie immediately corrects this impression: “Once again the hypercar regulations didn’t force us to chase absolute performance because that would be useless. The adaptation to the track and the final adjustments in the last days of the wind tunnel before homologation will tell, but we want to avoid falling into the extremes of recent years, with aerodynamic fins and flaps all over the place. However, the 9X8 has been designed as a racing car which must also be reliable: we have made no compromise with the design on the performance required to be achieved. With a little bit of ground effect, but not only, we were able to generate the downforce we wanted differently, without using this rear wing. »

Even the front part which supports this big Peugeot coat of arms and strongly evokes the new Peugeot 508 hybrids Peugeot Sport Engineering high performance on the road, would hide its game well… It is much more massive and vertical than what the Toyotas of Le Mans have shown us regulars, for example; “it is less spectacular thanand the whole rear part, recognizes Olivier Jansonnie, but it also conceals quite a few less visible originalities. »

« With the 9X8, we want the viewer to know immediately that he is in the Peugeot »

Michael Trouve, Peugeot design

As for the interior layout of the cockpit, with this «  desire for a cryptonite shade reminiscent of the color of the claws of the 508 PSE range, points out William Trouve, we wanted it voluntarily futuristic. When you look at the on-board images in the race, all the interiors look the same and you need a plate on the dashboard indicating the brand of the chassis and the race number to know which car you are in. With the 9X8, we want the viewer to know immediately that he is in the Peugeot. »

The very futuristic cockpit and

The very futuristic cockpit and « concept car » is still called upon to evolve. (DR/Peugeot/media)

About this cabin with elements covered with… fabric on the model (!), Olivier Jansonnie admits, for his part, “Having not yet advanced so much in our collaboration with design, as on freezing the aerodynamic surfaces which were more important. But it is certain that in this area too, we will try to distinguish ourselves a little. »

Peugeot Sport confirms its entry into the WEC World Endurance Championship with two cars for the 2022 season, still without specifying whether this will take place before or after the Hours of Le Mans that year. The timing is respected, it is said: the V 6s are running on the bench of retractors and the first 30-hour endurance test is scheduled there for Friday.

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