In my opinion, the best race cars are the ones that look wildest and most futuristic, especially when they are used to previewing future production designs and technologies. My favorite class is typically LMP cars running at Le Mans and other FIA World Endurance Championship events ̵
Not to be confused with the upcoming LMDh class, the Le Mans Hypercar class is new this year, though the 9X8 will not run until 2022. The LMH essentially replaces the LMP1 class, and while onlyand will participate in this year, next year Peugeot will be joined by a ByKolles rival and then one in 2023. (Aston Martin planned a Valkyrie LMH race car, but canceled it in favor of a variant for customers.) LMH cars are limited to a maximum output of 670 horsepower, although there are no other limitations on engine type or size apart from a minimum weight of 364 pounds. There is a minimum weight limit of 2,270 pounds and LMH cars must not exceed 200 inches in length or have a wheelbase longer than 124 inches or a width greater than 79 inches. Most exciting is that the LMH class has almost no limitations on chassis, aerodynamics or body style, resulting in the wild 9X8.
The 9X8 looks much wilder than any of the LMH cars we’ve seen so far, not to mention any previous LMP racers (except perhaps the front-wheel drive Nissan GT-R LM Nismo). Design director Matthias Hossann says the original sketch was of “a big cat ready to jump”, and Peugeot focused on tying the 9X8’s styling into the brand’s road cars. Its front end features prominent Peugeot’s new illuminated lion logo and rectangular light housings with three vertical claw elements, while the taillights are huge slashes that extend away from the body. I especially love the designs on the fenders, which have cutouts that show the tires, angled surface around the holes and integrated mirrors in front. The mix of soft surface, weird details and super hard lines and scoops make the 9X8 look like it came straight out of the Blade Runner or Cyberpunk 2077 in the best way.
But the biggest design feature that sets the 9X8 apart from almost any other race car regardless of class is its complete lack of rear wing. A rather low tail fin extends almost completely back from the roof shovel, and a fin comes out of each rear fender, but that’s it. This is possible thanks to the much less stringent rules of aerodynamics of the LMH class – an adjustable aerodynamic device is allowed and it does not have to be a rear wing – so Peugeot is able to produce tons of downforce through flight flight where it holds a secret, although we suspect that the 9X8’s diffuser and undercarriage play a big role, as LMH rules do not require a flat floor. Stellantis motorsport director Jean-Marc Finot calls the lack of a wing “a big innovative step”, as it is the first time a race car has not used a wing since the Chaparral 2F was groundbreaking for them, and the rear of the car even has a cheeky sticker, which reads “We did not want a hind wing” with an arrow pointing upwards.
The interior is just as absurd as the exterior, which is usually not the case with race cars. Hossann points out that race car interiors are typically purely functional with no ties to road cars or brand identity, so the design team styled the interior of the 9X8 to match Peugeot’s i-Cockpit production themes. Its blocked steering wheel, dashboard and sculptural seat give it a 1980s look in my eyes and there is a minimal amount of clutch equipment. The exterior Selenium Gray paintwork is contrasted with Kryptonite acid green accents, the signature color scheme of Peugeot’s Sport Engineered hybrid production cars, and all the interior upholstery is cut in the green to match. Black slashes are associated with the exterior color, and the side windows are also partially covered.
Driving the 9X8 is a twin-turbo 2.6-liter 90-degree V6 engine with 680 hp mounted in the center of the car, paired with a 268 hp electric motor mounted on the front axle. This hybrid setup delivers 9X8 with four-wheel drive and a total output of 670 hp, and it uses a seven-speed sequential gearbox and a 900-volt battery developed by Peugeot and Total Energies. Peugeot has been driving the powertrain on its test beds since April, focusing on reliability and efficiency – that’s what really wins Le Mans, not direct speed.
Two 9X8s will compete in the 2022 WEC season, although Peugeot has not said what events they will drive in. The 9X8s will be powered by a diverse team of drivers, including former Formula 1 drivers, Le Mans and Formula One. E-masters and experienced endurance drivers. Peugeot won the Le Mans in 1992 and 1993 with the Rad 905, then again in 2009 with the diesel V12-powered 908 hybrid. The 9X8 name refers directly to the two predecessors, where X represents the car’s AWD system. While I’m excited about the Hypercar class no matter what happens, the 9X8’s styling, technical innovations and history make it easy to choose which team I take root with. Next summer can not come fast enough.
Peugeot’s 9X8 Le Mans race car looks like it came straight out of Cyberpunk 2077
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