Peugeot is expecting its battle with Audi to be closer at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours than it was in 2009, as its 908 enters its fourth and final season.
The French manufacturer took its first win with the diesel 908 last year, at the third attempt, while the race was the debut for Audi's R15 TDi. Peugeot Sport technical director Bruno Famin says the car has been updated for 2010 and expects a close race.
"Last year, we believed we might be fractionally behind our main rival in terms of performance, but in reality it was quite the opposite and the 908 was still one step ahead," he said. "It is quite clear that our rivals have responded and made significant progress with a car that is still only two years old. In terms of raw performance it wouldn't surprise me if we were very fractionally behind – and that will set things up nicely for a 24-hour sprint race at Le Mans."
Peugeot has been forced to make alterations to its engine cover and front diffuser 908 to comply with the 2010 aero regulations. The Le Mans organizer, the ACO, has continued its efforts bring the performance of gasoline and diesel cars closer together, so the air restrictor has been reduced from 38.3mm to 37.8mm and the maximum turbo pressure lowered from 2.75 bar to 2.59 bar, resulting in an expected decrease of 40hp. On the other hand, the team has continued to develop the power unit and other areas of the car.
"Engine developments have continued and we have upgraded the engine," said Famin. "We have particularly focused on the reduction of frictional losses thanks to groundwork on the lubricants, improved volumetric efficiency for inlet and exhaust and enhanced combustion. We have also worked on a serious weight reduction program. The target was to make sure the car was no heavier this year, despite the various changes that have been made in terms of both reliability and the latest bodywork regulations.
"Reliability was an important consideration, even though we've had only one retirement since 2007 – we've completed 191 of a possible 192 racing hours [at Le Mans]. It was important to maintain this tradition, so we began with a major overhaul of all the elements that caused us problems in 2009: gearbox, clutch and transmission, brake wear, wheel assemblies and air conditioning.
"Finally, we have worked closely with Michelin on a completely new range of tires for dry, intermediate and wet conditions."