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Peugeot plans "big evolution" of Le Mans Hypercar for 2024 WEC

Peugeot will undertake a major evolution of its avant-garde 9X8 for next year with a raft of changes that are expected to include the addition of the rear wing.

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Paul Di Resta, Mikkel Jensen, Jean-Eric Vergne

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Paul Di Resta, Mikkel Jensen, Jean-Eric Vergne

JEP / Motorsport Images

The French manufacturer’s motorsport boss, Jean-Marc Finot, has revealed that the in-house Peugeot Sport team is undertaking what he described as a “big evolution” of the 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar, which made its debut in the World Endurance Championship last summer.

He revealed that the overhaul of a design that has so far finished no better than third in the Hypercar class of the WEC will include a switch away from the same width tyres all round for which the 9X8 hybrid was conceived.

Rather than running the 31cm Michelins on both the front and rear axles, Peugeot will move to the narrower front tyres (29cm) and wider rear tyres (34cm) run by the Toyota and Ferrari LMHs as well all LMDh machinery.

Finot would not reveal whether or not the revised 9X8, which will exploit the ‘evo joker’ rules that allow five performance upgrades during the life cycle of an LMH or LMDh, will run a conventional rear wing.

Autosport understands, however, that an updated version of the 9X8 will begin testing with a rear wing as soon as Peugeot Sport kicks off its winter development programme in the wake the final round of the 2023 WEC this weekend in Bahrain.

“We have made the decision to design the car again,” said Finot in Bahrain. “We will come with a strong evolution for next year to enjoy the 29/34 tyres.

“At Peugeot Sport we are fighters, so we made the decision to make a big evolution of the car because we want to be back with the front-runners.”

On the subject of a rear wing, he remained noncommittal.

#94 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes, Stoffel Vandoorn

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

#94 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes, Stoffel Vandoorn

He explained that both the car's weight distribution and the aerodynamic centre of pressure will be pushed backwards to exploit the move to wider rear tyres.

“We have to increase the downforce on the rear and decrease the downforce on the front,” he explained.

“There are many ways to do that, so we will keep a surprise.”

Finot wouldn’t be drawn on whether the revised 9X8 could be ready for the opening round of the 2024 WEC in Qatar at the start of March.

“The schedule is very tight and we will do our best,” he said.

“The schedule is not totally frozen; we have to negotiate this schedule with the FIA and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest [the WEC rule makers and organisers].”

His comments suggest that Peugeot could start its 2024 campaign with the existing version of the 9X8 before bringing the revised car on stream in the run-up to the Le Mans 24 Hours in June.

Finot insisted that Peugeot had been forced to undertake the major upgrade because “after one year we see that the Balance of Performance is not fulfilling our expectations”.

He pointed out that 9X8 had been designed for a front-axle deployment speed of 120km/h as laid down by the original LMH regulations.

#94 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes, Stoffel Vandoorn

Photo by: Shameem Fahath

#94 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes, Stoffel Vandoorn

This currently stands at 135km/h for the 9X8 in the latest BoP, but a decrease from the 150km/h at which electric drive through the front axle was previously allowed has not overcome the traction limitations of the car.

The concept of the 9X8 was undermined, Finot explained, by a change in the regulations that allowed a manufacturer running an LMH hybrid to chose the 29/34 tyre option.

This followed changes in the regulations that were part of the convergence process to align the performance of LMH and LMDh machinery.

This included a reduction in the minimum weight from 1080kg to 1040kg for four-wheel-drive LMHs.

Toyota argued that its design was compromised by this because it wasn’t able to optimise the weight distribution of its GR010 HYBRID for the 31/31 tyre option at the lower minimum weight.

It was allowed to revise the GR010 to run the 29/34 tyres between the 2021 and ’22 seasons.

Finot argued that Peugeot was not able to follow suit because the 9X8 design was already completed and the car in manufacture when the decision was made in the autumn of 2021.

A change in the regulations for 2023 mandated the 29/34 option for all new LMHs.

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