At the 24 Hours of Le Mans without a rear wing: the secrets of modern Peugeot


At the 24 Hours of Le Mans without a rear wing: the secrets of modern Peugeot

“It has no spoilers!” the world of motor sport exclaimed when last year it saw for the first time the prototype that Peugeot made in recent years to return to the Endurance World Championship at the end of last year to come ready for its main event: the centenary of 24 Hours of Le Mans. It is one of the most iconic and important races in the world. One of the most famous events on the planet. And for Peugeot, as a French brand, it is even more.

Le Mans is his home. There are your people. Your hobby. There they achieved victories they will never forget: in 1992, 1993, and the last of their showcases, in 2009, with their 908 diesel prototype, with Marc Gené in their ranks.the year in which they managed to end Audi’s amazing dominance of 5 years of glory.

In 2012, the lion company announced its immediate farewell to its racing program due to the economic crisis after failing to stop the success of Audi.with second, third, fourth and fifth place. When that announcement came, Peugeot had won 14 of the previous 16 races and the two previous ILMC championship titles, now the World Resistance Championship (WEC).. One of the greats is leaving. But at the end of 2022, and already in 2023 with a full program, the lion brand is back with the goal of once again being among the greats.

A car without a rear wing?

To do this, it took Peugeot 3 years to reinvent the structure of its competition and to design and create its plan and the subsequent car. As a result of hard work, the 9×8, a car that catches the eye. It is different from others. With a very aggressive image and the omnipresent brand logo claws, it surprised everyone with an innovative concept that seems to be a necessary element in all competition vehicles: the Peugeot 9×8 of the World Endurance Championship has no rear wing.

How could this be? The reason is simple. In a Formula 1, this idea cannot be applied, as the F1 teams try to apply the limit regulations to the design of their single-seaters in search of the greatest possible aerodynamic load with any element, and in turn, oppose the least the air. Downforce is what allows the car to stick to the ground in curves and thus can be faster in turns. We’re referring to what’s called ‘downforce’: downward vertical force that makes the car heavier and allows greater tire grip for greater cornering.

In the World Resistance Championship (WEC), however, there is one key element of difference: the ‘downforce’ is limited for all cars equally.. So, it doesn’t matter how you get it! You don’t need more than the others, and therefore, if you have already achieved the maximum downforce points allowed in other ways, you can do without the wing. And that’s what Peugeot did.

“We must understand that with the current regulations, there is not much change. We limited a ‘downforce’ that all Hypercars generate (name given to the new top-class cars of the World Endurance Championship with the entry into force of the new regulations). So it’s about the way we generate that ‘downforce’, and we do it on the ground and it’s not necessary to have a rear wing”, explains Jean-Eric Vergneformer F1 driver and current Peugeot Motorsport driver in the WEC, in MD in the run-up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

How do you make car adjustments?

If so, it is inevitable that the next question is the following: “Is it more difficult or different for drivers to adjust the setup of a car without a rear wing?” In F1, drivers go to the pits and add more or less front and rear wings with a change that takes a few seconds to get the best performance. But how does this work in the case of Peugeot?

“To change the aerodynamic balance, it’s more about lifting the car more or less. And when you drive, it’s exactly the same as if you had a rear wing.” added Vergne. In other words, the ground is the element that provides the aerodynamic load and they play with its tendency to have more or less grip.

“Here (in the WEC) the wing has been changed a bit. That’s more than the Formula, which changes wings very quickly. But to tell the truth, during the race you will not change. It’s more of a training period”commented the Peugeot Motorsport driver also in the WEC, the American Gustavo Menzeswhich makes it clear that they do this set of adjustments with the wing they have in front: “Also, the Peugeot has a front spoiler that can be changed in seconds. The back is only half of this theme. The front part also controls the balance a lot. And when we got to the race, it wasn’t touched, the car was set up to our liking.

Surprise at the factory

“Before seeing the car for the first time, the team didn’t tell us anything. And obviously, it was a surprise.” Gustavo Menezes remembers the first time he saw his new Peugeot 9×8 in person. At first, however, he did not notice the wing: “But the first thing I said was: ‘Wow! This car is so beautiful.’ The second thing I thought was that this car would be a dream car for any kid who saw it at home”added the Los Angeles pilot.

“And now we have to try to win. We haven’t yet. We accomplished the first goal, making a great car. And now we have to win in this car.”he argued, remarking that driving the French vehicle, he doesn’t notice any difference compared to a racing car with a spoiler.

“More variety than spoilers…”

“You don’t notice anything, seriously. If I hadn’t looked in the mirror, I wouldn’t have known I didn’t have a rear wing. Because the downforce balance is the same. And when it comes to track traffic management, it has no influence either. The fastest car is the best in traffic and our car is pretty good,” he reasoned in this regard.

“People only think about the rear wing, but there are many things that are different from others in our car: we have the thinnest tires, we have 4×4 deployment about 40 km/h before the others. And there are parts of the track where we have an advantage because of it. It’s a bigger difference than not having a rear wing… like the dynamics of the tires and the suspension and we have it for the regulation that we follow”, he concluded.

Road to the top they left

With this vehicle, Peugeot continues to take small steps forward. From the reliability problems they suffered in the first round at Sebring, to their improvement in the race, although still far from the best. Now, the goal is to finish his two units on his return to Le Mans after 12 years. They will have to come back from beyond the starting Top-10, but they know that “at the 24 hours of Le Mans anything can happen”.

His plan was to conduct a race with consistency and without mistakes, take advantage of the opponents’ failures and “lose as little time as possible in the garages”. Avoiding problems in a race that seems exciting, is very difficult, especially because of the heavy rain that threatens Le Mans. Therefore, Vergne is clear: “Finishing in the Top-5 feels like an achievement.”

“Because of how we started the year, and the rhythm, we still have a little bit to go. If we can finish in the Top-5 it will be a great motivation for all the engineers who have been without sleep for weeks trying to make the car better”Menezes said in this regard, agreeing with his partner.

“Obviously it’s not the final goal for Peugeot because we’re back to win. But it’s part of the path we’re trying to go on: win again at the 24 Hours. Obviously, it’s not easy. I won’t lie and say it’s a possibility. But if this year we can go one step further, it will be one step closer to the result we need to reach.”continues the American, sure that in the winter break, the ‘lion’ factory will be able to advance the evolution of its prototype on its journey to the leading positions in the medium term: “In the winter you have the possibility to make a bigger step. They all will. We have to work harder than others to make a bigger step, that’s all”.

The lion is back. Without wings, but with hunger that has been imprisoned for so many years. They will sharpen their nails. This is just the beginning.

Source: La Verdad


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