Stoffel Vandoorne is eager to make the most of his FIA World Endurance Championship Hypercar debut with the Peugeot TotalEnergies team this weekend at Fuji Speedway, where he will race in place of the injured Nico Müller in the No. 94 9X8.
The 2021/22 Formula E champion received the late call-up for this drive when it became clear that Müller, who suffered an injury to his left collarbone during the summer break, wouldn’t be fit to race. As such, Vandoorne has been short on time to prepare.
Vandoorne’s WEC run at Fuji is a one-off, for now. Motorsport Images
As Peugeot Sport’s reserve driver, the Belgian is not heading into this weekend’s track action completely blind. Vandoorne has previous experience behind the wheel of the 9X8 at a test at the Aragon circuit back in March, as well as WEC starts in LMP1 with SMP Racing and LMP2 with JOTA to draw from. While there was no chance to get any additional track time in the Peugeot, he managed to fit in some simulator time last week to help him get up to speed.
“It’s not a complete unknown for me because I have raced in WEC before,” said Vandoorne. “Obviously, times have changed with Hypercar — it’s more competitive than ever. You always want more mileage, but I am glad to get on with it.
“I don’t think there will be any big surprises. I will need to learn the car again in the beginning, but I don’t expect any issues. I am more focused on procedures and making sure I don’t make silly mistakes.
“It’s been a challenge because I have been switching between a lot of cars lately with the (DS Penske) Formula E car, the Aston Martin (F1 car) and now the Peugeot. Every wheel has a different layout and each car operates differently.”
The 6 Hours of Fuji is presently a one-off for Vandoorne, as Peugeot expects Müller to be fit to race in time for the season finale at Bahrain in November.
“At the moment the news is good, but we will have to judge at the last minute,” Peugeot Sport technical director Olivier Jansonnie said of Müller’s readiness. “At the moment he is recovering very well. For now, the plan is for him to be in Bahrain; we think he will be.”
Vandoorne’s future role with Peugeot. When asked if a full-time WEC drive is a priority for 2024, he said he has no preference between racing in the WEC or Formula E.
“I’d like to do both,” he said. “I want to drive in as many programs as possible. The more you can drive the better it is. It’s good to combine cars and skill sets. It develops your general skill set if you’re jumping from one car to another.
“My future in Formula E is not only a Stellantis decision because the team is part-owned by Penske. There are more parties involved.”
He did, however, all but rule out a switch in Formula E to fellow Stellantis brand Maserati in the short term.
“I am not calling them, and they haven’t been calling me,” he said.