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Peugeot, bring the 9X8 to Daytona

By 2023, a merger of top-class sports car racing in Europe and the United States will bring at least eight manufacturers to a top level of competition that has not seen more than three since the 90s. However, this number is deceiving. Two of these manufacturers, Acura and BMW, have not yet confirmed that their new LMDh cars will ever drive in Europe. Another three, the LMH group Toyota, Peugeot and Ferrari, are based in Europe and have just learned that their cars will be eligible to compete in the US two days ago.

In the end, business interests will probably get Ferrari and Toyota to the US for at least two races a year and BMW and Acura (albeit with Honda or HPD branding) to Le Mans for one. But Peugeot, the Stellantis-owned brand that does not sell cars in the US and has no plans to return soon, seems to be in Europe.

For fans of sports car racing, this is a shame. Peugeot̵

7;s new for 2022 sports car, 9X8, is one of the most dramatic and exciting cars the category has seen in its recent history. The wingless prototype’s dramatic features make it almost as memorable as the front-wheel drive Nissan GT-R LM Nismo, and unlike that car, the 9X8’s substructure is standard enough to actually be reliable and competitive in its class. Sure, the cars will visit the United States for the World Endurance Championship rounds held here, but the European-based prototype fields are nothing compared to the complete competition with American-based prototypes and other European one-time money the team would face if participated in IMSA’s major endurance race.

Driving a car in IMSA, especially in the traditional Florida endurance rounds at Daytona and Sebring, is not a wise business decision. While Stellantis owns eight brands that sell cars in the United States, Peugeot is not. And since the car is very specifically built to promote both Peugeot’s hybrid performance lines and its dramatic modern design language, the 9X8 would make no sense if it was rebranded as a Fiat, Abarth, Alfa Romeo or Dodge entry for the two races. . Any race in the United States will only be done to drive the car for trophies and prizes.

That may not be enough in 2023, but it was back in the sports car-starved landscape in the late 2000s. Then another iteration of Peugeot racing competed in the 12 hours of Sebring as a great tune before Le Mans. Daytona was organized by the now defunct Grand-Am series, and therefore nothing their 908s could come in, but the cars also often ran at Petit Le Mans in Road Atlanta to reveal the seasons. There was also no business case in 2008, but that did not stop Peugeot from driving its dramatic diesel hybrids in the places where the trophies mattered most.

Come 2023, every announced LMDh program will be online on Daytona. Toyota can also bring what will then be a battle-tested GR010 Hybrid to that race. Ferrari, which is likely to seek a splashier debut for its new hypercar than just a regular season World Endurance Championship round, seems like a logical form to complete the grid. That would leave Peugeot as an outlier, with a strong understanding of the business alone that kept them from America’s biggest endurance race and fans from a sufficient preview of the long-awaited 2423 hours at Le Mans in 2023. There’s still time to resolve this.

No sports car manufacturers owe the fans of the sport their commitment. After all, in terms of open wheel racing, there are hardly any fans of the sport in the first place. There is no smart business case to do to chase victories over Daytona and Sebring, and the races will almost certainly not be part of the World Endurance Championship. This is about nothing more than sending the best cars in the world to the best races, regardless of what titles they award and what cars they sell. This alone means that no Stellantis leaders would be expected to approve this promotion.

These leaders should just ignore these details. The business case for the LMH category, significantly more expensive than the LMDh and still much slower than the LMP1 class that preceded it, is already very suspicious. If Peugeot can commit to the hyper-expensive development of a car in this class, there is a relatively small budget to drive twice a year. Racing does not rely on smart business proposals, but on the feelings of building a car, bringing it to a track and running for an honor that will be remembered in 25 years. While championships are good, regular rounds of IMSA and the World Endurance Championships cannot offer that feeling. Sports cars run to win the big ones, and while Daytona and Sebring pale in comparison to Le Mans, they are the second biggest things in the category.

Yes, this is also about activation and dealer networks on the track, but the ultimate goal of building a sports car is to win Le Mans and make the case a legend. Regardless of whether the 9X8 achieves its short-term goals in the IMSA competition, the goal should be to fight its peers for victories in those types of races. The design clearly indicates that this car is about more than just winning races, so why not lean into the illogical dream and get it in front of as many eyes as possible? Peugeot’s latest racer is the most exciting car in the most exciting category in car racing. It deserves nothing less than the most exciting schedule Stellantis can provide it.

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