Peugeot’s diesel-powered 908 HDi FAP race program has been a bit of a mixed bag. Although the Le Mans prototype has been able to sprint ahead of the field and post some impressive lap times, the diesel-powered racers have fallen a bit short when it comes to reliability — a crucial factor in endurance racing. In order to ensure its next-generation LMP meets new 2011 regulations and is at least as competitive as the current 908, the French automaker revealed it’s testing the new 90X alongside its existing 908 racing program.
“Our objective was to start track testing before the end of the year,” Olivier Quesnel, Peugeot Sport director, said in a prepared release. “I am pleased to report that we have now done that. Even so, there is still a long way to go and a considerable amount of work to be done as we prepare for 2011.”
That work also includes giving the car a proper name — for the meantime, the team and Peugeot’s press department are simply referring to the new design as the 90X. The car is designed to comply with the new 2011 Le Mans regulations issued by the Automobile Club de L’Ouest. The ACO will now officially allow hybrids to compete in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, but the organization also mandated a horizontal stabilizer spoiler — colloquially known as the shark fin — to help prevent cars from going airborne during a spin.
Peugeot hasn’t exactly spilled all the beans on the 90X, but some information can be gleaned from the press images the automaker released earlier this week. The company is continuing to pursue a closed cockpit design, but the bodywork has been modified for aerodynamic purposes. As a result, the car sports a smaller nose, tapered side pods, reshaped rear fenders, a slender engine cover, and a modified rear diffuser. The 90X also gains a roof-mounted air intake, while the rear spoiler mounts have also been redesigned for the new season.
We don’t know exactly what will power the 90X around the racetrack. A diesel engine is virtually a given, but the automaker has previously teased us with a conceptual hybrid-electric form of the 908 in the past. Could a similar system make its way to the starting grid in 2011?
“We are still exploring several options with regard to the engine and technology we will use,” Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport’s technical director, said in a release. “Work on the engine’s development is ongoing. Endurance racing is an ideal proving ground to provide us with the opportunity to showcase all of [Peugeot's] technology.”
We’ll learn more about Peugeot’s 90X in the months to come, as the season openers of both the 2011 Le Mans and American Le Mans race series grow closer. Expect the 90X to make its first race debut at the 2011 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida, which is scheduled for March 16-19.