Peugeot 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar makes debut at 6hrs of Monza

Peugeot’s spectacular Le Mans Hypercar racer has joined the WEC field for the last few rounds before its full campaign next year

The golden age of endurance racing is another step closer to fruition after Peugeot’s debut of its 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar-class (LMh) racer at the 6hrs of Monza over the weekend. While Peugeot Sport is technically in full competition against rivals Toyota Gazoo Racing, Glickenhaus Racing and Alpine ELF, its three competitive rounds in 2022 will be used as a crucial part of the team’s development before a full campaign next year.

The 9X8 program conforms to the new Le Mans Hypercar regulations that launched at the beginning of this year, and will be joined by Ferrari with its new LMh contender as well as a range of Le Mans Daytona Hybrid (LMDh) contenders from Porsche, BMW and Lamborghini. While it would be great to see the Peugeots excel in their first outing, the team’s expectations for now are levelled at treating Monza as an initial test-bed for the program’s first full season next year. 

On Friday, both cars #93 and #94 were posting very competitive times in free practice, managing lap times only a few tenths behind their key rivals, but by Saturday’s qualifying, car #94 struggled to capitalise on that early pace, while car #93 was plagued by reliability issues and failed to set a time. 

Raceday saw the Peugeots starting fifth and sixth in their LMh class, with car #93 not able to shake its electrical gremlins and eventually retiring, and car #94 being struck with its own reliability issues, spending time in the pits and rejoining the race, albeit right down the field in 33rd. But placing well wasn’t the point of this exercise, instead it was a chance for Peugeot to test not just the car, but how the entire team functions during a racing weekend.

The cars and Peugeot Sport’s equipment will now make their way to Japan, where the next round of the WEC endurance championship will take place on the iconic Fuji Raceway, before the final round of the 2022 championship in Bahrain. 

> WEC's Le Mans Hypercar and LMDh contenders in full

Peugeot Sport Total Energie 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar

Peugeot Sport was one of the first new global OEMs to commit to WEC’s new regulations, commencing the project in 2019. In conversation with evo, Stellantis Motorsport director Jean-Marc Finot confirmed that the decision was made to design the 9X8 under the LMh regulations, rather than the more cost-effective LMDh regulations, due to the extra creative freedom governed by the hypercar class. 

This is obvious in both its technical makeup and design, the latter element overseen by Peugeot design director Matthias Hossann from the inception of the project. Such design influence is what has made the 9X8 so visually distinctive against its competition, with a low and streamlined aero package that does without any high-mounted wings. 

The wing-less aerodynamics package instead focuses on under-body aero, with various mechanisms, including some mechanically-adjustable elements inside the nose, that are able to generate sufficient downforce. The large Peugeot crest on the nose is actually an intake that sits on the leading edge of a carbon-tunnel intake, the white graphics applied with ceramic paint so as to withstand the rocks, bees and racing paraphernalia that will inevitably come into contact with it.

The lack of a high-mounted rear wing has not come at the expense of aerodynamic efficiency, either, the car reaching its downforce and stability targets without incurring the associated drag of a large wing mounted up in the airstream. The 9X8’s aesthetic design was one of the critical elements of the project, it being an essential part of tying the racer into its production car range. As such, not only does the 9X8 preview new technologies that will drip into the road-going range, but also its distinctive design motif. 

Peugeot 9X8 powertrain

Under the tall rear fin sits a bespoke 2.6-litre twin-turbo 90-degree V6 petrol engine mounted longitudinally behind the driver in a mid-rear layout. The engine will produce a maximum of 671bhp and power the rear wheels via a seven-speed sequential transmission. The decision to develop this new V6 was drawn from its ideal compromise between power density, packaging and weight, hitting the scales at 165kg. 

A single-turbocharger layout was initially considered, but failed to hit Peugeot Sport’s centre-of-gravity targets. The engine is purely motorsport, with experience drawn from previous programs informing basic architecture of the engine itself. The block, for instance, is closely related to the V12 engine it used in its last endurance-class racer – the 2007 Peugeot 908 – while the turbocharger and combustion technology comes from its experience in WRC and Dakar. 

In addition to the internal combustion engine is use of a 200kW (268bhp) electric motor mounted on the front axle powering the front wheels, making the Hybrid4 500kW all-wheel drive. When combined, these two propulsion systems quite dramatically out-perform the peak power limits in the LMh class, but when running in unison will only peak at the allotted 671bhp. 

Peugeot Sport will control this by limiting power from the V6 to 405bhp when the electric motor is at maximum attack, and at any one time will actively modulate the petrol engine’s power according to the input of the electric motor. According to LMh powertrain rules, the front motor and therefore front wheels, are not allowed to function below 75mph, which is when the petrol engine’s full 671bhp will be in use. As the front-wheels engage, power from the V6 is then modulated to never exceed the combined 671bhp power cap when joined by the electric motor. The same applies once energy from the batteries have been depleted, with the V6 reverting to its full capability.

This complex engine management will be monitored and controlled automatically by the racer’s electronic brain, with telemetry automatically being transmitted to race officials to keep within the rules. The battery pack has been developed in partnership with Peugeot’s historic racing partner Total, who also has worked with the combustion team in development of its internals and lubricants. 

The brakes will be by-wire, and like F1 and LMP1 utilise both friction and regenerative braking functions – regen levels will be controllable on the fly from the cockpit. The move to hybridisation also allows the brand to bring elements from the track to its new line of road cars.

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