PEUGEOT'S BIG CHALLENGE In the space of just a year and a half, Peugeot has risen to a formidable challenge. It has designed a car from A to Z capable of taking the fight to rivals seen as the benchmark in the realm of endurance racing. On June...
PEUGEOT'S BIG CHALLENGE
In the space of just a year and a half, Peugeot has risen to a formidable challenge. It has designed a car from A to Z capable of taking the fight to rivals seen as the benchmark in the realm of endurance racing. On June 14, exactly 531 days after its track debut on December 31, 2006, the 908 HDi FAP will begin its bid to secure the priority objective of Peugeot's 2008 season: victory at Le Mans. The nine drivers who will drive the three cars, and the bonded, motivated team are already fully focused on their attempt to write a fresh chapter in Peugeot's motor sport history. When it comes to the world's greatest endurance race, however, nothing can ever be taken for granted, and that was demonstrated yet again during the official preliminary test-day which saw Stephane Sarrazin post a remarkable 3m 22.222s but which also saw Marc Gene destroy the N7 car in a crash.
"We have prepared extremely thoroughly for this monumental competition," underlines Michel Barge, Peugeot Sport Director. "We have raced at Sebring and in the three rounds of the 2008 Le Mans Series, including Spa where we fielded two complete driver line-ups, not to mention an extremely busy programme of testing since the flag came down on the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours. Everyone at Peugeot Sport has done a tremendous job, but we've still got lots of work on our hands, including a car to rebuild. But that's what Le Mans is all about, too: big ups and sometimes moments that are more difficult. Thankfully, Marc Gene came out of his crash with nothing more than a dislocated toe but Stephane Sarrazin gratified us with an excellent time during today's preliminary test. We are optimistic for the busy week ahead."
The benchmark time when qualifying proper begins for this year's race is 3m 22.222s, more than four seconds quicker than the best time recorded in 2007: a 3m 26.344s, also the work of Sarrazin. Today's fastest lap was claimed by the N8908 HDi FAP after the track had dried out at the start of the afternoon. Indeed, today's test was marked by constantly changing weather which made the day extremely difficult, and this was the context behind the accident which saw the N7 car crash into the wall at the Karting turn at almost 270kph. Meanwhile, the N9 car posted an encouraging 3m 26.641s and, above all, the day ensured the qualification of the team's two Le Mans rookies, Austria's Christian Klien and Brazilian Ricardo Zonta who are paired with Frenchman Franck Montagny.
"We were let down by our lack of reactivity and strategy in last year's changing weather, so today was good practice for us" says Technical Director Bruno Famin. "We worked on finding the most effective set-ups for the different tyre options, but we won't be able to salvage anything from the N7 car. That means we will be forced to use some of the spares planned for the race."
This isn't the first time Team Peugeot Total has had to rise to a tough challenge, however, and morale is high within the team. Once again, the 908 HDi FAPs has shown real potential and it notably featured a new aerodynamics package which was seen for the first time today. The team has also worked hard on reliability to ensure that the three crews have a car that is capable of contesting a 24-hour sprint.
Peugeot and the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours - facts and figures:
3 cars in 3 pits (Ns 14, 15 and 16)
9 drivers totalling 393 Formula 1 Grand Prix starts between them, 32 previous participations in the Le Mans 24 Hours, 15 WRC rounds, 44 national and international titles.
122 staff, including 65 working on the technical side
9,200 square metres of hospitality facilities for 4,250 guests
90 square metres: the Peugeot Sport boutique in the village for the sale of merchandising (40 different items on sale representing a total stock of 60 cubic metres)
3 lounges (Ns 114, 115 and 119)
2 TGV coaches
20,000 post cards