Apparently Peugeot Doesn't Have To Make A Road Version Of Its Le Mans Hypercar

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Image: Peugeot

When the ACO unveiled its plan for hypercars to return to the top class of global endurance racing in 2018, many fans had visions of beloved homologation-special road cars like the Toyota GT-One and Mercedes CLK-GTR swirling in their heads. The new rules drawn up by ACO, the sanctioning body for global sports car and endurance racing, dictated that manufacturers participating in the Le Mans hypercar (LMH) class had to produce a minimum of 25 road cars by the end of their second year of competition, all featuring the same MGU-K electric motor as the racing version.

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Or so we thought. Because, as CarThrottle reported today, Peugeot apparently has no intention to build even one roadgoing version of its upcoming Le Mans hypercar. That’s the funny thing about rules: Sometimes, they don’t matter at all!

We are entering the Le Mans Hypercar category (called “LMH’’) via building a 100% race prototype only. We are not due to build any road-car / road-hypercar model or to have any connection with a road model to get homologation of our race-car. Nonetheless, there are bridges between Peugeot Sport Engineered and the Peugeot endurance program.

This comes as a bit of a surprise, considering that part of the purpose of the hypercar top class in the first place — aside from reducing expenses for manufacturers compared with the outgoing LMP1 formula — was to establish a link between endurance-race winners and road cars that has been absent, more or less, since the end of the 20th century.

Peugeot has evidently been able to skirt that stipulation, though it’s not yet clear how. The “bridge” to Peugeot Sport Engineered production cars perhaps offered a loophole. Jalopnik has reached out to Peugeot Sport to both confirm the quoted statement and to elaborate on it. We’ll update this story with whatever we learn.

Curiously, this news comes at a time in which the other top class that will soon compete for overall victory at the world’s greatest endurance race, Le Mans Daytona h (LMDh), has received a groundswell of support from many more automakers than the hypercar class that the ACO and FIA jointly drew up. Porsche and Audi have already revealed plans to join the LMDh roster, and that’s not including all the other brands that have floated interest, including Ferrari, McLaren, Acura, Mazda, Hyundai and Lexus.

Porsche’s early sketch of what its LMDh competitor could look like.
Porsche’s early sketch of what its LMDh competitor could look like.
Illustration: Porsche
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The reasons are simple. First, the cost to build an LMDh machine figures to be significantly less than an LMH one, because LMDh regulations mandate a spec hybrid system and offer constructors a choice of chassis from four companies: Oreca, Ligier, Multimatic and Dallara. Second, the LMDh spec, which was developed by IMSA, would allow entry to American endurance races like the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring in addition to the World Endurance Championship and the crown jewel of the sports car racing calendar, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Meanwhile, the only factory-backed entrants in the LMH class at present are Toyota and Peugeot. These two companies will spend significantly more to race for the overall win alongside cars that are racing at a far lower cost and don’t necessitate a road-car homologation program.

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Again, while we don’t know how precisely Peugeot managed to skip that last part, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that the ACO and FIA are seeking to make the LMH class a bit more palatable and less cost-prohibitive to their manufacturer partners. Aston Martin notably aborted its Valkyrie LMH program days after LMDh cars were permitted entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans because, as the former Aston Martin CEO, Andy Palmer, said in February, “the situation [had] changed.”

We entered Aston Martin Valkyrie in WEC and at Le Mans with the understanding that we would be competing with similar machinery and like-minded manufacturers. The situation has changed and it makes sense for us to pause and reconsider our options.

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In the end, the homologation requirement was one of the most exciting aspects of the hypercar ruleset for any motorsport fan who still romanticizes cars like the McLaren F1 GTR and Porsche 911 GT1 Strassenversion. At the moment, Toyota is still supposedly intending to make roadgoing examples of its GR Super Sport; it’ll be interesting to see whether the Japanese automaker will also try to avoid that requirement if Peugeot has supposedly found a way.

DISCUSSION

By
DeWayneV8

The manufacturers know they have the sanctioning body by the balls. If the ACO wants to have a large and varied grid to increase viewership they’re going to have to bend on the 25 car rule. It’s just too expensive.