Peugeot: We had pace for Fuji podium without oil leak issues

Peugeot believes it would have been able to challenge for a podium in Sunday’s FIA Fuji World Endurance Championship round but for the oil leak issues that delayed its two cars.

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Paul Di Resta, Mikkel Jensen, Jean-Eric Vergne

Both Oliver Jansonnie, technical director of the 9X8 Le Mans Hypercar project, and driver James Rossiter are confident that Peugeot had the pace to compete with the third-placed Alpine A480 through the Fuji 6 Hours.

Rossiter, who ran third ahead of the Alpine in the second stint of the race, told “I’m confident we could have made a good fight of it without the problem.

“I am sure we could have managed a podium, or at least had a fight to the end.

“Andre Negrao [in the Alpine] came back at me a bit in the middle of my second stint, but I knew I had enough left in the tyres to push a bit more.”

Jansonnie added: “I think we could have had a nice fight; the pace before this issue was pretty good.

“The race pace was actually really good, [but] we are still missing a little bit.”

Rossiter moved the #94 Peugeot 9X8 he shared with Loic Duval and Gustavo Menezes up to third ahead of the Alpine during the first round of fuel stops and was able to initially increase a narrow lead over Negrao.

The Peugeot dropped back to fourth behind the car Negrao shared with Nicolas Lapierre and Matthieu Vaxiviere during the second pitstop cycle after Rossiter was pushed off track by a GTE Am car on its in-lap and lost approximately three seconds.

Lapierre was quicker than Duval on fresh Michelins and was 15s in front when the Peugeot driver brought the 9X8 into the pits with oil smoke trailing from the back of the car after two and a half hours.

The leak was caused by a problem with a plug in the oil system that Jansonnie described as “nothing dramatic but the consequences were quite big”.

The problem cost the #94 20 minutes in the pits, meaning it could finish no better than 20th, 15 laps in arrears of the Toyota GR010 Hybrids that finished 1-2.

The #93 Peugeot shared by Jean-Eric Vergne, Mikkel Jensen and Paul di Resta only lost seven and a half minutes when it was hit by the same problem in the fourth hour and was able to recover to fourth, albeit seven laps behind the Toyotas.

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Paul Di Resta, Mikkel Jensen, Jean-Eric Vergne

#93 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Paul Di Resta, Mikkel Jensen, Jean-Eric Vergne

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“Unfortunately it was the same problem,” said Jansonnie. “We were kind of expecting it on the second car, so when it happened we were able to react [quicker].”

Jansonnie confirmed that the problem had never occurred during testing or over the course of the car’s debut at the Monza WEC round in July.

The in-house Peugeot Sport team believes it made considerable progress in the two months between Monza and Fuji, which included a pair of multi-day tests.

“We have resolved all the reliability-related issues we experienced at our first race, and the two days of practice at Fuji, along with the first two hours of the race itself passed off without incident,” said Jansonnie.

“If we continue progressing at this rate ahead of Bahrain [the 2022 WEC finale in November], it will be extremely positive.”

How fast was Peugeot?

The two Peugeot 9X8s weren’t far off the pace at Fuji relative to the second-placed Toyota driven by Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway.

Using a 100-lap average the #93 car was only 0.049s a lap slower than the #7 Toyota and 0.006s ahead of the Alpine.

Peugeot’s #94 car was a further 0.150s back over the full six hours of the race, which ran without interruption from yellow-flag caution periods.

The #93 car, however, never appeared to be in a position to challenge for a podium, despite ending up as the faster of the two 9X8s on the averages.

Vergne struggled with his tyres over the opening two stints, haemorrhaging time and ending up 40s behind the Alpine when he handed over to Jensen.

Jansonnie would only confirm that Vergne’s issues were tyre-related but wouldn’t elaborate.

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