Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Peugeots new LMP1 contender looks exactly the same, called the same too.

After giving a sneak peak of its second-generation diesel-powered prototype contender in October, Peugeot officially took the wraps off its new 908 Thursday in Paris. Winners in the three-round Intercontinental Le Mans Cup in 2010, the French manufacturer also confirmed a full attack in the seven-round global sportscar championship, which kicks off at Sebring next month.

More after the break.

Having taken place at the French manufacturers’ signature store on the famed Champs-Elysees, the launch of newest LMP1 entry came with much fanfare, but the biggest surprise was with the car's name. Despite being a brand-new prototype, built to the ACO’s 2011 prototype regulations, Peugeot’s contender will still be known as the 908.

"We have chosen 908 as the name of the new car in order to build on the wave of success with which it is associated," said Peugeot’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Xavier Peugeot.

Make no mistake about it, the new 908 is a complete overhaul from its predecessor. Powered by a 3.7-liter V8 diesel power plant, the new-gen LMP1 has followed Audi and Acura in utilizing full-size tires on all four corners. The 908 also sports the ACO’s newly mandated shark fin and other subtle aerodynamic updates.

Development of the car, initially codenamed the ‘90X’, began just shortly after the French Lion’s triumph at Le Mans in 2009 and continued through last year. The new 908 hit the track for the first time in the summer. 

"The regulations have evolved a great deal but we didn’t start from a clean sheet," said Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport’s Technical Director. "The experience we have gained over the past four years helped to steer the decision-making process and our technical choices, although the only component which has been carried over at the end of the day is the windscreen wiper! 

“One of the principal difficulties we faced was having to design an all new car while continuing to race another at the same time. We also needed to set ourselves sound objectives with all new to obtaining the best possible package with regard to engine performance, aerodynamics and weight distribution. We will only find out how successful we have been when we start racing the new car.”

With new prototype regulations enforcing smaller-sized displacement engines, Peugeot had no choice but to move away from its V12 HDi-FAP to a new V8 power plant, which produces 550 horsepower. But like development of the chassis, the engine has been in the works for over a year, having made its first appearance on the dyno last January.

While it may not look like it on the surface, the 908’s aerodynammics have also received an overhaul, with a focus towards a reduction in downforce in order to maintain similar top speeds of its predecessor. 

The 908 made its track debut on July 27, but as Famin explains, not everything went according to plan at first.

“We did indeed have problems but we succeeded in resolving them one by one as we got more and more kilometers on the clock,” Famin said. “One of the very positive points we found was that the car’s handling lived up to our expectations out of the box. With regard to its other strengths and weaknesses, we will need to wait until the first races to see how we compare with our rivals. 

“That said, we continue to work without worrying about what our opponents are doing; we are simply focusing on our own objectives. Between the car’s track debut in 2010 and the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours, we will have completed 12 tests in all, at a number of different circuits.”

Team Peugeot Total’s will kick off its 2011 campaign at the Twelve Hours of Sebring with two new 908s. A two-car assault in the entire seven-round ILMC is planned, plus a three-car entry at the Spa 1000km and 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

After winning the three-round ILMC last year, it’s clear Peugeot has set its eyes on back-to-back titles in the ACO’s new global sportscar championship.

“We clearly want to defend our ILMC title," said Peugeot Sport director Olivier Quesnel. "We won all three rounds of the series in 2010, but there is one round we are especially targeting this year, and that is Le Mans. This legendary event has now been incorporated into the championship, a move we believed was necessary – indispensable even. 

“Including Le Mans will be very beneficial for the championship and will put an even bigger spotlight on endurance racing which is a discipline that permits car makers like Peugeot to showcase their know-how and technology in extreme conditions.”

All nine of the team’s drivers - Anthony Davidson, Alexander Wurz, Marc Gene, Franck Montagny, Stephane Sarrazin, Sebastien Bourdais, Pedro Lamy, Simon Pagenaud and Nicolas Miansssian - return for their attack this year in the ILMC.

In fact, all three cars will feature the exact pairings from the 2010 twice-around-the-clock classic, showing the French squad's confidence in its lineup.

Despite speculation that Peugeot's new prototype would be a hybrid, there was no mention of such system during the team's launch. Hope PoleVision Racing and Ragoni Motorsport, two European-based privateers, are expected to use flywheel-based hybrid in LMP1 this season.

Peugeot's 2011 Le Mans Lineup

No. 7 - Alexander Wurz / Anthony Davidson / Marc Gené
No. 8 - Franck Montagny / Nicolas Minassian / Stéphane Sarrazin
No. 9 - Sébastien Bourdais / Pedro Lamy / Simon Pagenaud

Source: SpeedTV

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