‘WINGLESS’ – Maximising the potential of the Le Mans Hypercar regulations
The finely-chiselled details of the PEUGEOT 9X8’s rear-end design include the brand’s claw-effect lighting signature, while the lights themselves flank a wide diffusor above which the quip “We didn’t want a rear wing” is written.
Rear wings were first seen at the Le Mans 24 Hours on the Chaparral 2F which contested the race in 1967, so this is the first time their use has been questioned in more than half-a-century. The 9X8’s innovative rear stems from research carried out by PEUGEOT Sport’s engineering team.
“The new Le Mans Hypercar regulations were drawn up to level out the importance of conventional performance-boosting systems,” explains Olivier JANSONNIE, PEUGEOT Sport’s WEC Programme Technical Director. “Designing the 9X8 has been a passionate experience because we had the freedom to invent, innovate and explore off-the-wall ways to optimise the car’s performance, and more especially its aerodynamics. The regulations stipulate that only one adjustable aerodynamic device is permitted, without specifying the rear wing. Our calculation work and simulations revealed that high performance was effectively possible without one.”
“The absence of a rear wing on the PEUGEOT 9X8 is a major innovative step,” says Stellantis Motorsport Director Jean-Marc FINOT. “We have achieved a degree of aerodynamic efficiency that allows us to do away with this feature. Don’t ask how, though! We have every intention of keeping that a secret as long as we possibly can!”
Doing away with a rear wing provided the freedom to design the sort of sleek silhouette that hasn’t been seen for decades. Indeed, working hand-in-hand with their engineer colleagues, the designers made the most of the opportunity to create a harmonious blend of dynamic, sculpted shapes which form a clean, sweeping surface between the prominent wheel arches.
Hyper-efficient hybrid powertrain
Since the announcement in September 2020 of PEUGEOT’s involvement in endurance racing’s new Le Mans Hypercar class, the factory in Versailles, near Paris, has been working feverishly on the 9X8.
As planned, the car’s rear-mounted, 2.6-litre, bi-turbo, 500kW (680hp), 90-degree V6 – the internal-combustion engine part of the PEUGEOT HYBRID4 500KW powertrain – has been clocking up kilometres on the bench since April.
Meanwhile, the front-mounted 200kW motor-generator unit, seven-speed sequential gearbox and battery are in the process of being assembled in keeping with the bench-testing validation schedule. The powerful, technologically-sophisticated, high-voltage (900 volts), high-density battery is being codeveloped by PEUGEOT Sport and Saft, a subsidiary of TotalEnergies.
“Our target with regard to our energy requirements is flawless reliability and perfect control,” explains Jean-Marc FINOT. “Le Mans has become a 24-hour sprint race that can be won or lost by the number of times you pit. The exceptional energy-efficiency of the new Hypercars prefigures what we will see shortly in the world of road cars. This consideration had a fundamental influence on our work on the PEUGEOT 9X8 package, every aspect of which needs to contribute to achieving hyper efficiency, from its powertrain to its aerodynamics.”
Le Mans, a laboratory for PEUGEOT
In addition to its aerodynamic, mechanical and electronic efficiency, the new car will serve to showcase PEUGEOT’s extensive engineering expertise in the uncompromising world of endurance racing. The Le Mans 24 Hours is a notoriously exacting event and the 5,400 kilometres the cars cover in the course of the race is close to the distance covered in a full season of Formula 1, so efficiency and reliability are both vital.
“There’s more to PEUGEOT’s involvement in endurance racing than the sporting aspect,” insists Linda JACKSON. “Endurance racing is a form of motorsport that provides us with an extreme laboratory, which explains why our association with Le Mans is so strong. More significant perhaps than the results we obtain on the race track are the opportunities it provides to prove our technology and the fruit of our research work in a race that throws extreme conditions at you for 24 hours. Le Mans gives us a competitive environment to validate the hybrid systems and technologies we are currently developing to reduce the fuel consumption – and therefore CO2 emissions – of our road cars. The teams at PEUGEOT Sport are proud when they see their research carried over to our production models. For our customers, Le Mans is a laboratory that testifies to the quality of our cars.”