Peugeot protests Audi ahead of 24H practice

Peugeot protests Audi ahead of 24H practice

Team Peugeot has lodged a protest with the ACO (Automobile Club de l'Ouest) , the organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, ahead of the start if this evening's first practice session. The complaint concerns the front wing of the team's archrival, ...

Team Peugeot has lodged a protest with the ACO (Automobile Club de l'Ouest) , the organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, ahead of the start if this evening's first practice session. The complaint concerns the front wing of the team's archrival, Audi.

#2 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R15 TDI pushed out of scrutineering area.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

The team specifically has an issue with the front wing design on the new-for-2009 Audi R15. The two front wings have small appendages affixed to their inner surfaces, and a flap that links the wings. Peugeot is arguing that these elements constitute bodywork elements whose sole function is to generate downforce, and since they are not specifically permitted by article 3.6.2 of the current ACO technical regulations, they are forbidden.

Peugeot, along with LM P1 rivals Aston Martin and ORECA, already questioned the Audi front wing design after the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring race.

"It looks like it acts exactly like a flap on a wing, with the splitter arrangement acting as the main plane," Aston Martin Racing team principal George Howard-Chappell told Autosport magazine at the time.

Audi argues that the R15 design was already homologated prior to Sebring, and the car has now passed scrutineering at both Sebring and Le Mans: that's three detailed technical inspections of the design and bodywork, including the final one this week, well after Peugeot raised their concerns about the bodywork.

"Our protest dossier was already ready (at Sebring), but the Automobile Club de l'Ouest made assurances that it would take the necessary steps ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours," said Olivier Quesnel, the head of Peugeor Sport. "I insist on the fact that our approach is constructive and not aggressive. It seeks to clarify what is an unclear situation with a view to obtaining clear, precise regulations in order to prepare for the future. "

With practice set to begin in three hours' time and qualifying in just 28 hours, it's not yet clear what action ACO will be able to take in time, or whether the matter can be resolved in time.

"Now that this procedure is underway," said Quesnel, "all our energy is now focused entirely on our priority objective for 2009, which is to try to win the Le Mans 24 Hours. May the racing begin."

However, Peugeot clearly indicates that they will immediately appeal the ACO decision should it not be in their favour, likely casting doubt on Sunday's final race result until the appeal is heard.

"We intend to take this matter to its conclusion," Quesnel said. "Should our protest not be upheld by the sporting stewards, we will lodge an appeal with motor sport's supreme governing body, the FIA."

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Series LEMANS