|In 2007 Peugeot will be returning to the world’s automotive racing circuits at the highest level, after retiring from the WRC at the end of 2005. Announced on 14th June 2005 Peugeot’s Le Mans programme only really started once the last WRC test trial finished, in November 2005. Since then the Peugeot Sport team has been reorganised to produce a mock-up of the V12 HDi FAP engine in June 2006, followed by a mock-up of the 908 at the Paris Motor Show last September, on Jan 10 it finally unveiled the 908, ready to start is first development tests in anger.
Peugeot’s press release, of Jan 10th
Peugeot: Le Mans And The Full Le Mans Series For 2007
The main race this year will of course be the Le Mans 24 Hours, a race that Peugeot has won twice already, in 1992 and 1993. 2007 will, however, be a breaking in period for everyone, men and cars, before claiming victory in this prestigious race in 2008. Peugeot will also be present in the LMS with, as at Le Mans, two cars in each of the 6 races.
Michael Barge, Director of Peugeot Sport, unveils the Marque’s sporting strategy: 2007 is a real ’restart’ for Peugeot Sport, conveyed by a new logo and by its new programmes that are based on two elements: the official programme based on endurance and the HDi FAP, as well as sporting promotional programmes built around the Peugeot 207.
"In little more than a year, we are putting the 908 on the track for the first time with a partly-renewed team in which we have searched for both the necessary skills and consistency to achieve our common goal. The team that we have formed is exceptionally effective, which has allowed us to show you today a completely new car, engine, gearbox and chassis. With this in mind, our 2007 objective is to progress and develop the 908 for all the different circuits in a manner that enables us to achieve a winning level of performance necessary for the 2008 season. But as for 2007 we are striving to present the best possible mix of track performance and endurance.
"Two cars are already committed in each of the 6 LMS races as well as the Le Mans 24 Hours. A team of six drivers has been recruited by our Team Manager, Serge Saulnier: for four of the LMS races, the Frenchmen, Nicolas Minassian and Stéphane Sarrazin, the Portuguese, Pedro Lamy and the Spaniard, Marc Géné. Sébastien Bourdais and Jacques Villeneuve will help to strengthen the two driving teams for the Le Mans 24 Hours whilst Eric Hélary will be the test driver and the reserve.
"The promotion of sporting products, which underlines the dynamic qualities and the technical elements which make up our production cars, is based around the Peugeot 207 with two new products fitted with the THP petrol engine. Both are destined for the race track and have already been unveiled, the 207 LW, the entry level competition car, which will be developed in France at the Peugeot Sport Meetings in the 207 Sprint Cup. Its winner will be presented with a Spider 207, the second car destined for the track. A European based formula; the Spider Cup will accompany the 908 in the various LMS races as well as 2 races in the French calendar. The winner will have the possibility of test driving the 908 for a day.
"Finally for rallying, the 207 Super 2000 conforms to the new Super 2000 regulations. It will be used by our subsidiaries, importers and private customers in national and international championships, such as the intercontinental Rally Challenge and the Production WRC in 2007.
"Justifiably strong in motor sport, Peugeot expresses via competitions its marque’s values, dynamism, value, innovation and style.
"Peugeot Sport will rely on its close collaboration with its partner, Total, as well as its technical partners, Bosch, Michelin, Dow Automotive and Eurodatacar and X Box 360 for this programme."
5 Questions to Bruno FAMIN, Technical Director
How long did you have to set up the 908 project?
In June 2005, Frédéric Saint Geours announced Peugeot’s wish to return with an HDI FAP diesel engine. But in 2005 and up until the end of November, the whole of the Peugeot Sport team was still developing the 307 WRC in the World Rally Championship. On 1st October 2005 I arrived at Velizy and from a blank sheet of paper, today we present, one year and 3 months later, a complete car and its drivers. It’s an enormous feat to accomplish, especially as the project only really started on 1st January 2006 with the arrival of Paolo Catone, Claude Guillois and Guillaume Catelani.
What were the mains stages?
To the end of 2005 we concentrated on deciding upon the major technical issues and adapted how the technical team was made up for the new programme. From there things moved at a faster pace with few delays. At the beginning of March we were fixed on the idea of a closed car and at the same time created the first single cylinder test engine. In April the 908 mock-up had its first trials in the wind tunnel. We had decided on the shape of the body by the end of July and in September started to assemble the first engine, which was started for the first time, the following day, after the 908’s presentation at the Paris Motor Show. We received the body in the middle of December and as soon as we had it we started assembly to enable the first drive on 31st December. A real marathon!
Have the changes to the ACO regulations made you late?
No, not really, but it now means that we have to look at the performance / fuel consumption to be more in favour of fuel consumption.
It was a question of using a bio-fuel - where are you with this?
The tests that we carried out during the engine’s presentation at Le Mans last June were inconclusive. We have therefore come up with the idea of using a biofuel from 2007 developed by our petroleum partner but which conforms to the regulations; ACO is maintaining the principle of a single fuel for all competitors for 2007.
What is the programme for 908 in terms of testing and races?
Some fifteen races, of which 3 simulate the 24 Hours, are planned for 2007. We are counting on doing 20 to 30,000 kilometres of tests. We will be going to Sebring but not for the racing only for the test sessions. It will be too early to partake in a race. On the other hand, it is very interesting to see what the competition is like on such an important track (heat, traffic, rubber on the track....) We will take part in our first race during the LMS race at Monza on the 14th and 15th April, we will then go to Valencia on the 5th and 6th May. Most importantly, these two rounds will be major tests for the 908 in order to amass as much information as possible before Le Mans.
5 Questions to Serge SAULNIER, Team Manager
What are you looking for in your drivers?
We are not looking for a particular profile but rather drivers that have certain qualities. Speed of course, but also consistency. A driver who knows how to get the best from his vehicle in all conditions, especially changes in the track, whilst being able to master the traffic and, of course, someone who is in excellent physical condition. An interest in driving for Peugeot and the ability to rise to the challenge, were equally predominant factors. I initially looked at those from Formula 1 or the young ex F1 drivers.
Despite what you may think, there are not that many of them who have these qualities.
Do you have any limitations regarding nationality?
It’s obvious that a manufacturer such as Peugeot cannot have a wholly French team in such a large scale programme. Nevertheless I have received no particular guidelines. To start with I set my sights on a German and English driver. But a lot of them were signed up to drive for Formula 1.
How did you go about choosing the drivers?
We got together at Peugeot Sport on 4th September. We already had a few ideas and combined these with ideas from Jean-Pierre Nicolas and Michel Barge. The phone never stopped ringing. I was even contacted by GP Masters drivers who surprised me with their motivation and their young thinking. I was equally surprised by the young drivers. All these boys dream of only one thing, to try their luck in Formula 1. I understand them but isn’t it a great opportunity to became part of a manufacturing team at 20 - 25 years old? Michael Schumacher, Karl Wendlinger and Heinz Harold Frentzen have all taken this route. I think that endurance racing with a mainstream manufacturer such as Peugeot is an excellent preparation for Formula 1. I therefore adopted a more classic plan with experienced drivers who have an average age of 30. All my choices were of course confirmed by Michel Barge, as well as Bruno Famin and Paolo Catone for the technical side. They too have their opinion on the question.
Jacques Villeneuve and Marc Géné do not have endurance racing experience, why did you choose them?
Jacques is someone who has turned up and won every competition that he’s undertaken. I’m thinking particularly of the Champcar Indianapolis 500 Miles or the Formula 1 World Championship. I like his sporting spirit and knew that he’d dreamed of taking part in the Le Mans 24 Hours. When I contacted him, he convinced me, he could become the first driver in the world to win Formula 1, Champcar, Indianapolis and the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Marc Géné has a key job with Ferrari. He is a brilliant stand in driver, who is very capable of replacing more senior Formula 1 drivers.
How will the teams be made up?
We’re not yet certain; we need to do a few test runs. Size is obviously an important factor but also affinity and the impression of the car. Nicolas, Stéphane, Pedro and Marc will take part in the complete programme for 2007. Sébastien and Jacques will join them for the Le Mans 24 Hours. In the meantime, they will all clock up the miles. All six will systematically attend the 24 Hour simulations. At the same time Eric Hélary will be a great attribute in the car’s development and as a reserve driver.
3 Questions to Paolo CATONE, Head of the 908 Project
Was the first 908 assembled as planned?
Despite the lack of time that we had to create the 908, everything’s gone well, even better than I thought. Once the idea and the technical issues were confirmed, we launched the production designs of the different components. We encountered no large scale issues. Testing through out the project was completed successfully, which in turn allowed for a smooth manufacturing process. The best example is still the integration of the group designed body and engine unit, which encountered no issues.
Why the delay in the planned schedule?
The initial objective, as mentioned at the end of 2005, was to carry out an initial drive before the end of 2006, that objective was reached.... we can’t therefore talk about a delay.
On the other hand, at the beginning of 2006, we tried to gain a month on that objective but, during the summer, we decided to take more time to guarantee the soundness of our technical definitions, especially the chassis and the bodywork, in order to ensure that the assembly went as smoothly as possible.
How many 908’s will be manufactured?
At present three. Two will be used for the LMS and the Le Mans 24 Hours races, the third will be used for development trials. The exact number will be in relation to the technical programme as defined by Bruno Famin. Whatever happens, since the beginning of this project, the decisions made are agreed by everyone involved.
3 Questions to Guillaume CATTELANI, Aerodynamics Manager
What has changed between the mock-up presented at the Paris Motor Show last September and today?
We have rediscovered the original concept of a closed car that we know, but with the emphasis placed on the importance of cooling - required by the diesel engine - through the use of larger bodywork panelling. However, everything changed following the first wind tunnel tests and in order to conform to ACO regulations: doors, wings, air intake etc.
Will there be any more changes to the 908?
Of course! We now need to drive and accumulate the mileage. We are carrying out wind tunnel tests at the same time as the test drives. It’s true to say that with the current technical means, it’s possible to quickly obtain a satisfactory level of support to maximise the initial drives. But that’s not all, we also have to find a level of quality and it’s only through many test drives in the wind tunnel and outside that we can do so. Our main priority is to give the drivers a car which is capable of being driven in the LMS, more than just the Le Mans 24 Hours in order to allow them to get used to this new car. We will then refine things as we clock up the mileage. Between today and Le Mans there will be more changes.
How many hours has the 908 spent in the wind tunnel?
We have created an aerodynamic test model for the wind-tunnel wholly by ourselves. To be frank, I’ve never seen a model of this quality produced in such a short time. There are some real ‘stars’ in the plastics’ department at Peugeot Sport. We’ve used the most modern manufacturing techniques in order to transform the test model into a huge puzzle where each piece can be easily changed. As a result we are able to maximise the time spent in the wind tunnel. We started on the 18th April last year for the first time. Today we have carried out around 500 development hours in the wind tunnel.
3 Questions to Claude GUILLOIS, Engine Manager
What’s been happening since the 15 June, when the V12 HDi FAP was presented at Le Mans?
We have finished our detailed study of the engine to enable us to launch the manufacture of all the parts and to assemble all the components. Each component has undergone miniscule and rigorous metrological tests etc. The V12 HDi FAP engine uses complex components which need extremely rigorous controls. Certain sub assemblies such as the oil pumps and the water pumps, have undergone further bench tests before being fitted on the first engine; assembly began in the second week of September, and lasted for around three weeks. During the first fitting a certain amount of checks must be carried out, measurements, carrying out of certain adjustments, or minor modifications and adaptations, taking of photos and accurately understanding the assembly process to ensure easy mounting of other sub assemblies. As stated in the planning at the beginning of the project, and despite a particularly tight deadline, the V12 HDi FAP was installed onto the test bed at the end of September and started for the first time at Vélizy during the night of the 29th and 30th September at 2.30am.
Have you reached the objective of 700 bhp and 1200 Nm?
That is what we hope, firstly through the different calculations and simulations, and then in relation to all the preparatory trials carried out on the single cylinder engine. A large number of theories were confirmed but some aspects such as those linked to the actual structural design of a 12 cylinder engine in particular were difficult to check before the first test. But we have reached a performance level in accordance with the specifications. And today the first V12 HDi FAP prototypes have accumulated 180 hours of testing. There remains however a lot that still has to be confirmed and tested, especially in terms of reliability, driveability and fuel consumption. We will and must change in relation to the results obtained from tests and races.
Why are you carrying out tests on a single cylinder engine?
This enables us to fine tune the combustion and the initial injection before the first multi-cylinder engine was manufactured. We are also able to explore lots of possibilities in a short space of time, validate certain principles, optimise construction parameters and even anticipate certain regulations.
Also, thanks to this engine, which may be described as a scale model, but a functioning scale model, we are able to significantly reduce the time to fine tune and help reduce costs, whilst at the same time reducing the inherent risks associated with this type of engine.
3 Questions to Jean-Marc SCHMIT, Chassis and Systems Manager
Are there electronic similarities between the 905 and the 908?
At team level there’s always the same difficulties, the same issues. On the other hand electronically and systems-wise great strides have been made. It’s as if you compare a 386 PC with a Dual Core! However, in the main, it’s not that different from a WRC, even if there are fewer electronics on the 908. Since September 2006, that’s all I’ve been doing and thinking of, even during my free time. Nothing must be left to chance in as much as I haven’t mastered certain aspects such as the diesel and I hate not understanding, not knowing the basics. Taking into account the tight schedule I had to learn very quickly and familiarise myself with our new electronics partner, Bosch. It’s not easy to configure the tools and know how to make best use of them. But the PSA Group is a worldwide leader in diesel engines. You only have to pick up the phone to obtain a solution!
In some ways you’re creating the 908’s brains?
There are loads of sub assemblies in a car that we call systems, and they have to be put into place, radio, data acquisitions, driving aids, engine management etc..... But equally we have to ensure that all the car’s systems talk and interact together. Thus the harness has more than 5,000 connection points. For example, to display information about the gearbox or the temperature on the steering wheel may seem minor, but it is in fact highly complex in as much as safety strategies have to be taken into account. You need to think about everything.
How many people work with you?
Between the research offices, calculation offices, electronics and systems, we’re running at just over 30 people. The majority of human resources were already in place at Peugeot Sport, but we also had to call on external resources, especially for the research department, in order to be able to make the project work. The PC is everyone’s toolbox. Me, I prefer to have my hands inside.
3 Questions for Patrice LACOUR, Workshop Manager
How many people are involved with the 908 in the workshops?
We run two programmes simultaneously: 908 and 207 Super 2000. Lots of people work on both projects at the same time. Nevertheless out of 50 people who work in the workshops, including the labs, the plastic department, the machine shop, the warehouse, the mechanics, bodywork etc... 90% work on the 908 programme today.
Have you renewed any staff for this new programme?
Following guidelines, the staff level has reduced by 30%. However, those people working for WRC have all the necessary qualities to enable them to work on the 908 programme. What’s more we wanted everyone to be multi-tasking in a job and not confined to one job, as they are in WRC. This is a necessity, taking into account the reduction in staff numbers. Timing is tight but the infatuation and the motivation are such that no-one is watching the clock.
How will your staff be made up for the test season?
For each 908 there will be a team of 3 people, a car manager and 2 mechanics. Of course back at base they will be supported by 2 people from the labs (gearbox and SSB (suspension, steering, brakes)), a systems person, an engine engineer accompanied by a mechanic, a chassis engineer, a body panel specialist and 6 or 7 people who will deal with material management.