Peugeot’s 9X8 hypercar is a radical departure from the typical Le Mans race car from the last twenty years or so. With no rear wing, Peugeot is hoping to run with less aerodynamic drag, banking on a higher top speed for Le Mans domination and ground effects to handle the rear downforce the car may need. It’s totally unlike anything that has raced at Le Mans in a long damn time, and for that reason it’s pretty damn cool. Unfortunately, Peugeot has confirmed that the car will definitely not be ready in time for the 24 this June, and will have to make its World Endurance Championship debut at some point after the third round.
Peugeot is using much the same excuse that Glickenhaus used last season to explain its delay. The big problem right now is that once a car is homologated for competition, that specification is frozen until at least 2025. The French Lion says it needs to ensure it has a grip on the car’s reliability before it homologates its car, or it won’t have an opportunity to fix fundamental flaws until after the rules unfreeze in three seasons.
In order to run at Le Mans, Peugeot wanted to be able to have the car ready for at least one prior round of the WEC, which meant either Sebring next month or Spa in May. Without that proper endurance shakedown for the 9X8, there’s no way the company would allow the car to bow at the most important race of the year where the world’s eye would watch any potential flaws make themselves obvious.
Peugeot technical director Olivier Jansonnie explained the delay in a conversation with Motorsport.com:
“Both operationally and from a reliability perspective, Le Mans is the most difficult race on the calendar. We will begin with some shorter races, which will allow us to progressively get up-to-speed in the championship.
“Like with our road-going cars when we have to choose between meeting a deadline or focusing on quality, we always prioritize quality.”
Peugeot didn’t confirm when the car would actually make its debut, but it seems likely that the Monza round later this summer would be the perfect place for that to occur. This would still allow Peugeot a compete in three rounds, finishing out the season with Fuji in September and Bahrain in November. Getting actual competition miles under the team’s belt is vital to its competitiveness come 2023 when Porsche, Ferrari, and Audi are scheduled to join the series.
With the removal of Peugeot from the entry list, there will presumably be the same five cars in the Hypercar class as competed in 2021. That means a pair of Toyotas, a pair of Glickenhaus, and a single grandfathered-in LMP1 from Alpine.