A cursory look at the entry list told you what Peugeot was thinking in the lead-up to this year's Le Mans 24 Hours but, two days before the race began, Peugeot Sport chief Olivier Quesnel, his words slightly warped by real-time translation from French, made the point again.
"I have a picture in my mind," he said. "And that is that the #8 will be a sprinting car. The #7 will be sprinters. And the 'warriors' car will be the third one. The team driving the #9 are the warriors - and in fact they are happy to be called that."
Put less cryptically, it was pretty straightforward. Car #7 (Nicolas Minassian, Pedro Lamy and Christian Klien) and car #8 (the all-French line-up of Stephane Sarrazin, Sebastien Bourdais and Franck Montagny) were intended to be Peugeot's spearheads - the ones charged with using the pace inherent in both themselves and the 908 to beat Audi and its new R15 into submission.
Car #9, driven by the perhaps less explicitly fast but equally less temperamental trio of Marc Gene, Alex Wurz and David Brabham, was to act as the rear guard for the main attack and offer a third option in case things went wrong.
Guess which car won.
How it panned out
Peugeot Sport pitstop during the 1000km of Spa © LAT
The buzzword around the Peugeot camp in the lead-up to the race was 'preparation'. The team felt that it had learned from its mistakes in the past and it arrived at La Sarthe feeling more relaxed and better drilled than in previous years. Quesnel points to the Spa victory in May as a turning point.
"I think if we had lost at Spa it would have been very dangerous for us," he said. "But Spa allowed us to train the entire team under race conditions, and that was very beneficial from that point of view."
Addressing the 908's technical hang-ups was another priority leading into this year's race. Huge efforts were poured into solving the overheating problems that had crippled the car in the past, and the traction control glitches that rendered the car vulnerable in the wet were also targeted. In both cases, the work paid off - cooling did not seem to be an issue for any of the French cars and, while their wet-weather capabilities were not tested in the race, they were quickest in the rain during practice on Wednesday night.
Peugeot's frontline attack may have been built around two 'sprinters' and one 'warrior', but there was also a fourth option in the form of an updated 2008 car that had been loaned out to Henri Pescarolo.
"This gives us an additional chance to win," Quesnel said. "Which is not a bad thing." Ironically, the #17 Pescarolo Peugeot 908 was an unwilling player in the downfall of the first of Peugeot's main weapons. The race was barely 40 minutes old when the #7 car, with Lamy at the wheel, was released from a pitstop too early, setting it up for a neat broadside from #17.
Lamy continued out onto the track anyway, but the clash had punctured his left rear tyre, which completely delaminated as he tried to return to the pits and took most of the rear of the car with it. By the time he made it back lengthy repairs were needed, and when the car finally rejoined the race it was long out of contention. Thus, one of Peugeot's first options was neutralised before the first hour was over. Meanwhile, the Pescarolo entry was able to press on strongly until 4am, when the garage doors came down following Benoit Treluyer's huge crash at the Dunlop chicane.
Where it went right
Things got worse before they got better - the night was still young when the #8 lost the lead and dropped two laps while having a gearbox problem attended to in the garage, leaving Peugeot to cash in on its insurance policy and put its hopes behind the #9.
Marc Gene, Alex Wurz, and David Brabham on the podium © LAT
But if it was a 'third option', it wasn't necessarily a weaker one. Gene and Wurz were both capable of running at the similar pace to the sister cars, while Brabham proved a safe pair of hands when he was put into the car during the small hours.
Peugeot had also learned from the past, and having watched Audi's drivers quadruple-stint their way to success last year, opted for a slight variation in triple-stinting its tyres - a significant time saver under the new pitlane rules. The team actually felt that the Michelins would have stood up to quadruple stints, but believed that three offered the best balance between longevity and performance.
It also helped that during the morning, the #1 Audi ran into ECU problems. This allowed it to fall into the clutches of #8, which had steadily been rising through the field after its earlier malaise. Not long after the recovering Peugeot had overhauled the stricken Audi for second, the team issued an order for the two cars to hold station.
From a PR point of view, a win for the all-French line-up might have been preferable, and could have been easily orchestrated. But having finally brought itself within reach of a Le Mans win - a 1-2, no less - the last thing it wanted was to risk messing it up by trying to be clever.
Where to from here
Fresh from the podium, Quesnel admitted that there had been "great expectations from the public and also from Peugeot" for a victory this year after two unsuccessful attempts. But while the company's future motorsport plans remain unclear, it was adamant that the outcome of last weekend's race would have no bearing on its decisions.
Prior to the race, marketing director Christian Peugeot said: "As far as we are concerned, in terms of the scenario for the future and our participation in the event for the future, this is not linked to a victory or a defeat here. There is no direct link between that and our continuation."
The deciding factor will instead be the outcome of talks scheduled over the coming weeks between manufacturers and the ACO to discus future regulations. Peugeot said last Friday that it is the "manufacturer's dearest wish to remain in endurance racing", and having finally tasted success on Sunday, it's hard not to imagine that the Lion would desire the opportunity for a second helping.
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