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Peugeot's Duval not surprised by Porsche Bahrain decision

Peugeot driver Loic Duval says he is not surprised by Porsche’s decision to forfeit a chance to give its new 963 LMDh prototype an early FIA World Endurance Championship in next month's Bahrain season finale.

Porsche 963 LMDh

Porsche

Porsche was openly considering giving the 963 an early first race outing in the Bahrain 8 Hours on November 12 to prepare for its twin assaults on the WEC and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2023.

The German manufacturer has been running the Multimatic-based hybrid contender since January this year and has completed a number of tests on both sides of the Atlantic with two different chassis in this period.

This raised hopes Porsche could take advantage of a special dispensation from the WEC to run LMDh machinery in non-homologated form this year ahead of their scheduled introduction in 2023, with no other manufacturer thought to be in a position to do so.

However, the factory Porsche Penske team revealed in September that it has elected against racing in Bahrain, instead focusing on additional testing in North America.

Duval, who raced for Porsche’s sister brand Audi in the WEC from 2012-17, said it is understandable that the Weissach manufacturer was not willing to run the 963 in racing conditions just yet, having witnessed first-hand the complexities of Peugeot's comeback to top-level sportscar racing.

Asked if he was surprised by Porsche’s decision to not race in Bahrain, Duval told Motorsport.com: “No. I don’t know where they are [in terms of development] but it also shows you that it’s not that simple.

“Peugeot has been away from the top category of endurance since 2011, and they’ve come back from scratch; Porsche has been away [from the top category] since 2017 but they stayed in the WEC with GT cars.

“They started testing around the same time as us, but we are already here and they are not. It shows the complexity of putting everything together.

“And it might be a choice from them - maybe they are really not ready, or maybe they are kind of ready but don’t want to come to the racetrack and not have a chance to win the race. That could also be one of the perspectives that they have.

"It’s their decision. Surprised, no, but sad, yes, because it would have been nice to see the Porsche on the racetrack in Bahrain.”

 

Peugeot completed testing totalling several thousand kilometres with the 9X8 LMH to prepare for its first programme in sportscar racing since 2011, but its first two race outings so far have been marred by a variety of technical issues.

The #94 entry of Duval, Gustavo Menezes and James Rossiter finished near the back of the pack on Peugeot’s debut at Monza due to cooling issues, while the sister #93 car driven by Paul di Resta, Mikkel Jensen and Jean-Eric Vergne retired due to what the French manufacturer described as “car system problems”.

An oil leak then dented Peugeot’s hopes of a podium at Fuji, with di Resta, Jensen and Vergne finishing seven laps down in the best of the two 9X8s.

Asked about Porsche's decision to turn down its invitation to Bahrain, di Resta said he feels Peugeot’s own troubles in making its LMH contender reliable shows that manufacturers can’t rely entirely on private testing.

"I know what goes on in the background and how hard it is, and it only takes one small thing not to be ready manufacturer-wise or supplier-wise that can knock it off course," the British driver told Motorsport.com.

“Whether it was that or a reliability thing, or just that they want more preparation, I can't answer for them, but any time you can go racing, it's key to getting your people ready.

“And when you think about how ready you need to be for next year, I think it's a huge step. It's not something you can simulate that well at Aragon or whatever [in a private test]."

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