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Le Mans 2023

Jean-Eric Vergne on Peugeot’s Le Mans chances: “top five would feel like a win”

Peugeot isn’t too confident about its chances on its return to Le Mans

Published: 10 Jun 2023

Peugeot hasn’t competed at Le Mans since 2011, but this year it’s back with the wingless wonder that is the 9X8. The only issue? The V6-hybrid hypercar hasn’t actually been all that wonderful so far, with reliability issues and a lack of pace compared to rivals hampering its WEC campaign.

And having qualified 10th and 11th for the 100th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours, it would seem that the team isn’t too confident about its chances ahead of this weekend’s race. “If we don’t have any technical issues and we don’t make mistakes, top five is realistic. But that is a big ‘if’. If that were to happen it would feel like a win,” said Jean-Eric Vergne. The two-time Formula E champ will join Mikkel Jensen and fellow ex-F1 driver Paul di Resta in the #93 9X8.

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“I think we have more strengths here than on any other track,” said Vergne. “The car actually feels pretty raceable and it’s very well balanced. The car in Le Mans is coming alive. It’s in a happier place than anywhere else we’ve been racing.

“The most important thing will be to finish the race. We need to spend as little time as possible in the garage.

“There is huge pressure on the shoulders of everybody at Toyota, Porsche and Ferrari. They are going to make mistakes. We know that so much can happen in a race like this, and we’ve also seen in the past that it’s not always the quickest team that wins. We’ve seen teams being two or three seconds slower [per lap] that actually won the race.

“Anything can happen, but we have to pray that everything will go our way.”

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Boss of motorsport at Stellantis Jean-Marc Finot echoed Vergne’s sentiments in fewer words: “Whatever will happen, we will learn a lot. Our crew won the fastest pit stop challenge though.”

Finot also noted that tyres were hurting the Peugeot, as it was designed to an earlier set of hypercar rules and as such is running narrower tyres at the rear compared to its competitors. Thus, grip and traction in the low-speed corners is an issue. And no, a rear wing wouldn’t solve that apparently.

There is one factor that could work in Peugeot’s favour this weekend though – the weather. Yep, with thunderstorms predicted at the Circuit de la Sarthe literally anything could happen in the race.

Gustavo Menezes – who will pilot the second #94 car alongside Loïc Duval and Nico Müller – was particularly pleased with the forecast. “The crazier the better if it gives us a good result,” was the American’s hope for the weather.

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What do we reckon though folks? Anyone think there’s a chance of a shock Peugeot win?

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