Peugeot have confirmed their 6 man line-up for their new Hypercar that will debut in the WEC for 2022. They have shown their intentions to be back at the front immediately, by signing not one, but 3 ex-F1 drivers into the team. Kevin Magnussen, Paul Di-Resta and Jean-Eric Vergne will be hoping that Peugeot can provide them with the machinery to bring the victories that both sides dearly want. They announced their other drivers also, Le Mans winner Loic Duval, WEC stalwart Gustavo Menezes and current LMP3 champion Mikkel Jensen. There is also James Rossiter, who has raced occasionally with the ByKolles team since 2012 and was a test driver for Honda F1 back in 2000. He will be the reserve and simulator driver for the team.
Written By Ian Bruce, Edited By Ryan Lack
Peugeot are yet to confirm how the drivers will be spread across the 2 cars, announcing the line-up as “seven drivers – one team”. The new hybrid hypercar class will join the WEC at some point during the 2022 season.
This return to the endurance racing class is further signs of the strength in depth that the Stellantis company that was created following the merger of the PSA group and Fiat Chrysler earlier in 2021. Director of motorsport, Jean-Marc Finot, has urged that the “quality of the relationship between everybody involved in the project is fundamental”. He also stated “Over and above their individual racing skills, the main criteria we took into account when assessing and talking with drivers were the ties they have with each other, their mind-set and their ability to work together to motivate and help take the team forward, because the human factor plays such a big part in endurance racing,”, continuing, “We also wanted to establish that they saw the commitment with us as a priority and not just a line on their CV”.
Olivier Jansonnie, the technical director of the renewed WEC project at Peugeot Sport, explained the selection process, “We didn’t just take individual results into consideration. We also examined the speed, consistency and reliability of a long list of drivers, because we are looking for a line-up that meshes together well, with an eclectic mix of up-and-coming youngsters and experienced campaigners with proven development skills, especially in the field of hybrid powertrains’.
An obvious choice to match this criteria would be an ex-F1 driver that has been driving during the current hybrid era, enter Kevin Magnussen. The former Haas, Renault and McLaren driver chose to join sports cars after leaving F1 at the end of 2020, being as his family has such a heritage in this discipline, it’s obvious he would want to try. He made his debut for Chip Ganassi racing in IMSA at the Daytona 24 hours race last month and will be competing with the team for the entire season. K-Mag is a fine choice, as he was always fast and will always remain a fierce competitor.
It seems that Paul Di-Resta has been selected more for his recent successes in LMP2 rather than his time in F1. He has been racing with United Autosports, with decent success, for the last 3 seasons. The highlight being a class victory at Le Mans in 2020. He showed signs of class during his time in F1 with Force-India and Williams, but it seems sports cars are more suited to his driving style, like his time in DTM showed.
Two-time Formula E champion and one-time driver for Toro Rosso in F1, Jean-Eric Vergne is another fine choice by Peugeot. He has also been racing in an LMP2 car for TDS Racing in the ELMS, during which they have achieved multiple race wins.
Loic Duval is very experienced at the top level of sportscar, driving with the Peugeot back Oreca 908HDi in 2010, before his switch to Audi. The latter earned him a win at Le Mans and the WEC crown in 2013. Another strong driver that could be paired with young charges to form a possible surprise package.
Menezes is well known within the WEC circus, having been a regular since 2016. He won the LMP2 title with Signatech in the same year and has been driving with LMP1 outfit Rebellion racing since then.
The last driver, Jensen, has been drafted in by Peugeot after only one season in LMP2. He has driven with Vergne on some occasions last season, including Le Mans. He was promoted to LMP2 after one season with P3 outfit Eurointernational, with which he won the title with.
Peugeot is expected to decide when in 2022 it will enter in the WEC, but we will see our first glimpses of Peugeot’s hypercar at the end of this year and if their previous LMP1 challenger showed us anything, it could be a car to look out for