Peugeot Sport technical director Olivier Jansonnie has revealed that the upgraded 9X8, which will sport a new aerodynamic concept and chassis modifications to allow Peugeot to move to a larger tire size, will debut at round two of the 2024 FIA World Endurance Championship season in Imola.
“We have put all of our focus in developing the new car; right now the main thing is to prepare for Qatar with the 2023-spec car, and we try to bring the new car in Imola,” he said on a conference call with WEC media members. “We are trying to go through the last parts of the aero homologation with the ACO and FIA and hopefully it will be ready in time for Imola.
Jansonnie also explained due to the time it takes to design, develop and test upgrades ahead of re-homologating the car, Peugeot knew from the outset that debuting the upgrades would not be possible for the season opener in Qatar. It was a task that Peugeot began undertaking early in the 2023 season, before Jansonnie hinted to RACER after Le Mans that “significant” updates were being planned.
“You can’t just do half the job,” he explained. “You have to do it fully and that takes time. It’s very important for us that we can bring something that is making a clear step forward in terms of performance.”
While Jansonnie would not go into detail about the car seemingly running with a rear wing in its 2024 spec, he did stress how much of an impact changing tire size would have. Currently, the 9X8 uses 31cm wide tires all around, and will switch to the now-standard 29cm front, 34cm rear tires.
“Most of the changes we’re making are just to accommodate the tire dimensions,” he noted. “First, we need to move the weight distribution on the car. Our car was designed to run at a very forward weight distribution because of the 31-31 (cm) tires. We’ve got to move it back somehow, which means we need to have some lighter parts on the car, move some ballast over to try to move the weight distribution and then obviously retune the aero balance on the car.
“That’s the second biggest part of the package, to try to get an aero balance on the car that matches the new tire dimension. Everything is actually driven by the tire choice we are making now.”
This news comes after the new-look 9X8 was spied testing before Christmas at Paul Ricard in France. The feedback from testing has been positive to this point.
“We’ve run elements of the car all the way through the development,” Peugeot driver Paul Di Resta said. “It feels very different. It gives you more feedback in the direction we want. But it’s been hard racing the car we’ve had against the competition.
“The restraints we’ve had — not just in aero, not just mechanical, all the way through — are the things we’ve addressed. It was a new team that designed this car; they’re putting all the data they’ve gathered to use. I’m looking forward to seeing how it fares against the others.”
Di Resta was keen to keep expectations realistic ahead of its debut, however.
“It’s obvious that how our car worked was very different to others,” he said. “How the rules were decided way back is the direction they went with the car we used last year.
“You can’t underestimate the competition — it’s always going forward. I think the development Toyota came with last year at Sebring showed the difference you can make between cars.”