After a delayed gestation period, Peugeot, the French car brand synonymous with success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the World Rally Championship, and the Dakar Rally, has finally unveiled a race-ready version of its revolutionary 9X8 racer built to the latest hypercar rules for Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship under the Team Peugeot TotalEnergies banner.
The 9X8 was unveiled at the Circuit de Algarve in Portimao, Portugal, very recently, and will partake in its baptism of fire starting at the 6 Hours of Monza round of the WEC happening in July, followed by the 6 Hours of Fuji in September, and then the 8 Hours of Bahrain in November.
The team opted to skip their ‘home race’ at the La Sarthe circuit in Le Mans in two weeks, perhaps to better prepare the vehicle and the team before returning to glory. While the previous roster of drivers remains the same, James Rossiter will be replacing Kevin Magnussen for Monza, but it still remains unknown who will be filling his spot for the next two races.
Peugeot has won the classic French endurance race a total of three times—from 1992 to 1993 during the Group C/WSC endurance racing era with the legendary 905 Evo 1, and lastly in 2009 during the LMP1 era of top-flight racing at Le Mans with the 908 HDi FAP.
The 9X8 name looks both forward and back. The 9 represents Peugeot’s top-tier, top-performing models such as the 905 and the 908 before Peugeot unceremoniously pulled out of sports car racing. The X designation refers to all-wheel drive, as the 9X8’s hybrid powertrain is integrated into the seven-speed sequential transmission that drives the front wheels, with the engine powering the rear. The 8 refers to Peugeot’s current model lineup—the 208, the 308, the 5008, and more.
The 9X8 is revolutionary because it makes do without a massive rear wing unlike its competitors from Toyota, Scuderia Glickenhaus, and the upcoming cars from Porsche, Ferrari and Cadillac. It will get all its downforce from its massive underbody diffuser, which has the ability to generate comparable downforce without increasing aerodynamic drag.
This is unique to the latest Le Mans and WEC hypercar rules where only a single adjustable aerodynamic aid or element will be allowed, giving far greater creativity and latitude for engineers to push the boundaries of what is possible.
On tracks like the La Sarthe Circuit with its three 2km straights known as the Ligne droite des Hunaudières (or simply the Mulsanne Straight in English), top speed is crucial where cars can see 330km/h. Tracks like the Autodromo Nazionale Monza also favor high-speed and low-drag setups.
Power comes from a twin-turbocharged 2.6-liter V6 engine that now produces 707hp, aided by the aforementioned hybrid drive system that makes an additional 268hp for a grand total of 975hp.
The design is interesting: The cabin area is supposed to mimic a lion’s head with its glorious mane set back, which gives the 9X8 a slightly more cab-forward design versus its competitors. The three prominent lines on either side fore and aft represent the lion’s claws. At the back, Peugeot playfully inscribed the words “WE DON’T NEED A REAR WING.”
It’s interesting to note that Peugeot took great care to imbibe the 9X8 with many design cues tying it to the brand rather than simply focusing on function over form. Indeed, the French truly have their own unique way. Even the colors represent Peugeot’s bold new direction: Selenium gray, which will be made available on the 508 sedan and station wagon soon, makes its first appearance on the 9X8 race car.
This all-French effort will be partnering with Michelin for the tires and TotalEnergies for the fuels, chemicals and lubricants. The world of endurance racing just got even more exciting as more manufacturers come and join the fray.