After the 24 Hours of Le Mans, how does the team and in particular the engineers, prepare for this Italian round?
“The time of preparation in between races is always very short. There is no specific preparation for every race, except for Le Mans where we arrived 10 days before the race because of the test day. For the rest of the FIA WEC season, we do some simulator work where the drivers and engineers can get ready for the race, get used to the track, test several setups, and get acquainted with the car and the tyres. Then, the engineers go through their usual preparation working with Michelin to choose the tyre packages that we will bring to the race, and we can’t be wrong. They also have to define the setups of the cars that are different for every track: the camber, the tyres, the pressure, the springs…everything can be different from one race to another. Those setups can either make a car efficient or not if they suit the track or not, depending on if a track is made of long straights, slow or quick turns. The goal is to find the balance of the car, with a similar grip at the front and at the back to not generate under or over steer and so that the drivers trust the car and are able to be as quick as possible.”
The PEUGEOT 9X8 made its debut in Monza, what are the challenges of the race?
“Compared to last year, the challenge was to capitalise on the improvement of our reliability that was one of our weakness last season and at the beginning of the programme. We saw at Le Mans that we managed to improve the efficiency of the car and our reliability was better. Unfortunately, at Monza, we were not 100% reliable as we faced some issues during the race. We were hoping to end without any problems on both cars. In all, the challenge at Monza was also to get maximum speed as well as the balance of the cars in fast turns. It’s a track with long straights, very quick with a high average speed, and which is why it’s called the Temple of speed! We also had to get the best braking stability as possible to brake later and gain some time, while maintaining the balance between the front and the back of the car. The layout of Monza is also famous for its two chicanes that are the key low points on the track. To be faster in a chicane you have to be the best in kerb riding and it’s where we have to improve even more. We were better than last year, and we progressed all weekend long as we found better setups (suspension, chassis…). In the end, crossing a kerb means cutting your trajectory and the more you lower the distance you have to do the faster you are to make a lap, and you also maximise the minimum speed to arrive faster at the beginning of a straight.”
What is your review of this weekend at Monza?
“We showed great performances for the first time since the beginning of the programme which is the most important thing. It’s the first time that we end P1 at the end of a free practice and that we were at the front. Then during the race, we fought on top, it’s the first time that the car was that quick and able to overtake Ferrari and Toyota. We were behind them, and we managed to overtake them to take the lead of the race, which was a huge satisfaction. It shows the progress made, as well as the trust the drivers have in the car and in their capacity to overtake other competitors and be at the same level of performance.
The best story of the weekend is that for the first time we are very close to the top runners in terms of performance. We ended third and so we have a rhythm close to the top and we just needed a little more. We had some issues during pitstops, especially the first one with the #93 where Mikkel was following an LMP2 and could not stop exactly where he had to. We had to push the car back a few centimetres to be at the right place and to avoid a penalty, so we lost around twenty seconds. We can see that you can win or lose a race for only a few seconds, so we still have to make improvements on those details. In conclusion, we are getting closer to the lead, we have better flow during the races with less issues and also have better communication between the engineers and the mechanics. Race after race, our car is improving and so is operational performance, which is really positive.”
The next race of Team Peugeot TotalEnergies will be the 6 Hours of Fuji from the 8th to the 10th of September.