Peugeot back in Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship? That’s now possible, but there remains one hurdle – costs. According to Autocar, the French manufacturer could return to the top LMP1 class of sports car racing, but organisers will first have to substantially reduce the costs of competing.
Peugeot exited from the WEC’s LMP1 class in early 2012 after competing for five years, when it won Le Mans in 2009 and the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup title in 2010 and 2011. The company’s main business of making and selling road cars was making losses then. The PSA Group’s financial health is a lot better these days, so much so that it is buying Opel/Vauxhall from GM.
At the recent Geneva show, Peugeot boss Jean-Philippe Imparato reiterated PSA Group chief Carlos Tavares’s point that the company was now in a position to return to Le Mans if costs are lowered.
“We have always said we will return if three conditions are met: firstly, we as a company are making money; secondly, we have won the Dakar Rally and thirdly, the cost of competition cannot be over €200m per year. The first two conditions are now met, the third is not. We are studying a return, but the regulations must be easier on the budget,” Imparato said.
After Audi’s exit at the end of last season, Porsche and Toyota are the two remaining manufacturers in the LMP1 category. According to the report, series organisers are said to view three manufacturer teams as the minimum for the championship to be sustainable, and are pushing for rule changes to reduce costs, to entice Peugeot.
The continued use of expensive hybrid powertrains are seen as important to make the race cars relevant to road car development, but changes that can affect costs include modifying aerodynamic rules. PSA boss Tavares thinks so too. “There are many ways to limit costs, including the aerodynamic development,” he said in September last year.