Peugeot drivers Alex Wurz and Stephane Sarrazin are convinced that Audi's new R15 Plus will bring the German manufacturer right back into contention in the two LMP1 giants' ongoing battle.
Last year Peugeot beat Audi at both Le Mans and Petit Le Mans, ending a long run of victories for the latter in sports car racing's major events and championships. Audi responded with a new version of its R15 chassis. Having won on its racing debut in the Le Mans Series opener at Paul Ricard last month, the R15 Plus takes on the works Peugeot 908s for the first time in round two at Spa this weekend, as both teams use the race as final Le Mans 24 Hours preparations.
Wurz said Audi's pace at Ricard made it clear that the R15 Plus was going to be a serious rival to the Peugeot 908, but insisted he welcomed the increased competition.
"They're really close," the Austrian said of Audi. "I don't know what they did in the first session [at Spa], but from the Ricard test, we know they're very fast. Competition is good, you have to bring the best of yourself to succeed."
With rain having affected practice at Spa today, Sarrazin said the weekend would reveal where Audi and Peugeot stood relative to each other.
"It's too early to say," he told AUTOSPORT. "I think we'll see tomorrow. I don't want it to be too close... But they've built a new car so they cannot stay behind. I didn't follow them, but some drivers in the team did and said it was quick in a straight line. Maybe they have lower downforce, I don't know."
The Frenchman said Peugeot was ready to meet Audi's challenge, having made plenty of improvements to the 908.
"We've changed quite a lot of things, aerodynamic, mechanical and on the engine," Sarrazin said. "It's a better car than we had last year for handling. The front of the car is better."
He added that he was delighted to be getting an early showdown with Audi at Spa, where both teams are entering their full three-car works line-up, with ORECA running a fourth Peugeot 908.
"I'm very happy, and we feel the pressure for Le Mans coming. I like that," Sarrazin said. "It's amazing: four Peugeots, three Audis, all with top drivers, it's like a dream. For the team winning Le Mans it will be even better.
"The target is to try to improve ourselves a bit during the race, particularly in the pit stops, the engineering during the race, and to get used to the stress of the race – because we don't do a lot of races."