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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

Peugeot top-five at Le Mans would be like win, says Vergne

A top-five finish for the Peugeot 9X8 on its Le Mans 24 Hours debut would “feel like a win”, according to ex-Formula 1 driver Jean-Eric Vergne. 

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8 of Paul Di Resta, Mikkel Jensen, Jean-Eric Vergne, #94 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8 of Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes, Nico Muller

The former Toro Rosso driver insisted that a finish in the top five in the double-points round of the World Endurance Championship is a realistic target for the French manufacturer, even though it ended up slowest in qualifying of the five major car makers racing in the Hypercar class at Le Mans. 

“If we don’t have any technical issues and we don’t make any mistakes then a top five is realistic,” he said. 

“If that happens it will feel like a win - but it is a big if.”

“We have to make a strong race with no mistakes and pray a little bit that things go our way. 

“The most important thing is to finish and spend as little time as possible in the garage -  we know that so much can happen in this race.”

Vergne, who shares the #93 9X8 with Paul di Resta and Mikkel Jensen, believes that Peugeot will be closer to the pace in the race than its qualifying performance suggests. 

“From what we have seen our race pace looks much stronger than our qualifying pace,” he explained. 

“The car feels good on a long run: against the other cars we are not as far off as it looks.”

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8 of Jean-Eric Vergne

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8 of Jean-Eric Vergne

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Vergne expressed surprise that Peugeot’s rivals were able to make much bigger gains between free practice and qualifying than the French manufacturer. 

“It looks like the others have a magic button in their cars; they fly away, they are in another category,” he said.

Peugeot was more than two seconds from the pace in 10th and 11th positions after Wednesday evening's first qualifying session. 

That followed the best of the 9X8s ending up only six tenths behind in the opening session of the test day and the first session of free practice.

Real progress has been made with the 9X8 since its last WEC appearance at Spa at the end of April, according to the Frenchman.

The car is in a “happier place” around the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans than in previous WEC rounds, he said. 

“Everything feels better, better in the high-speed corners, and the traction feels way better,” he explained.  

“We’ve worked on that because it was a clear weakness.

“A smooth tracks fit us better: it helps with the ride, which is something we have needed to improve.” 

Peugeot's best result this year was a fifth place at Portimao in mid-April for the #94 9X8 shared by Loic Duval, Nico Muller and Gustavo Menezes.

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