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Peugeot green-light for Le Mans


The flag drops on Peugeot’s Le Mans series sportscar challenge in March at the Sebring circuit in the United States – but the French manufacturer is there not as a competitor

Peugeot Sport technical director Bruno Famin has revealed the new diesel-powered Peugeot 908 HDi is to appear for testing only at the American Le Mans Series opener.

The completely new car – developed from scratch in 15 months – then makes its race debut at Monza (Italy) in April before moving on to Valencia (Spain) in May.

Famin says it is too early in the development programme to take part in a race and the team wants to get 20-to-30,000 kilometres of tests under its wheels before committing to a start.

“The first two rounds in Italy and Spain will be major tests for the 908 so we can amass as much information as we can before the big race in Le Mans,” Famin says.

Meanwhile Peugeot has announced that Canada’s former Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve will drive one of the two diesel powered Peugeot’s at this year’s Le Mans 24 hour sportscar race in June.

Villeneuve told Peugeot team manager Serge Saulnier he has dreamed of taking part in the famed 24 hour endurance race at France’s Sarthe circuit.

“When I contacted him, he convinced me he could become the first driver in the world to win the big four major championships – Formula One, Champcar, Indianapolis and the Le Mans 24 Hours,” Saulnier says.

Peugeot won Le Mans in 1992 and 1993 but began its current programme only after withdrawing from the WRC in 2005. It is on record as saying that 2007 is a ‘breaking-in’ year and the team will be going all out for victory in the famed sportscar series in 2008.

Development of the Peugeot 908 HDi car and programme really only began on January 1, 2006 following the decision in mid-2005 to compete on the world’s toughest sportscar circuit.

The Peugeot Sport team was reorganised to produce a mock-up of the V12 HDi FAP engine in June 2006, followed by a mock-up of the car body at the Paris Motor Show last September. The 908 race car was officially unveiled on January 10, ready to start its first development tests.

Two cars are committed in each of the six Le Mans races as well as the 24 Hour marathon.

The 35-year-old Villeneuve is joined in the Peugeot squad by Marc Gene who is Ferrari’s Spanish Formula One test driver, Portugal’s Pedro Lamy, French Champcar champion Sebastien Bourdais and fellow Gallic drivers Nicolas Minassian and Stephane Sarrazin.

Peugeot in New Zealand is very excited with the commencement of the 908 HDi programme. Peugeot Marketing Manger, Rod Cunningham states: “Peugeot has long been a world leader in diesel engine development, pioneering common rail and high pressure direct injection systems. The race 908 will run with full environmentally friendly FAP particle filters, reducing particle emissions to below measurable levels. This same technology is utilised in all new Peugeot HDi passenger vehicles sold in New Zealand.”

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