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#1 Peugeot 908 powers through the night at Le Mans – Click above for high-res image gallery

This year's 24 Hours of Le Mans was shaping up to be a second straight flag-to-flag romp for the Peugeot 908 diesels, right up to the point where they all started dropping like flies. Needless to say, the Peugeot Sport engineers have taken a long, hard look at why all four cars failed to finish – and in the case of three of them, it basically comes down to perfect race conditions leading them to be running too fast.

The first car to go out was the #3 entrant that was built up from the tub that won the 2009 race. After two-and-a-half hours of racing, a suspension mounting point separated from the carbon fiber tub as the result of an undetected structural problem.

The other three cars all went out later in the race with what turned out to be an identical connecting rod failure. A combination of circumstances led to all of the cars running faster this year and putting increased stress on their engines. Not mentioned by Peugeot in its report is the fact that the new Audi R15+ ran considerably faster in 2010, pushing the Peugeots to the limit. At the same time, cool temperatures and a grippy track, blended with air-to-air intercoolers that didn't clog up as much as they did in the past led to more air going into the combustion chamber. More air means more power and an increased load on the pistons – especially late in the race. No doubt Peugeot will be looking to increase its safety margins as the engineers prepare their all-new 2011 challenger.

  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Timo Bernhard (D) Audi R15 TDI #9 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Fahrerwechsel Marcel F�ssler (CH), Andre Lotterer (D) Audi R15 TDI #8 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Fahrerwechsel Allan McNish(GB), Tom Kristensen (DK) Audi R15 TDI #7 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Timo Bernhard (D) Audi R15 TDI #9 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Marcel F�ssler (CH) Audi R15 TDI #8 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Timo Bernhard (D) Audi R15 TDI #9 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Allan McNish(GB) Audi R15 TDI #7 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Romain Dumas (F) Audi R15 TDI #9 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Timo Bernhard (D) Audi R15 TDI #9 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Timo Bernhard (D) Audi R15 TDI #9 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Audi R15 TDI #7 (Audi Sport Team Joest) Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish
  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Dindo Capello (I) Audi R15 TDI #7 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Dindo Capello (I) Audi R15 TDI #7 (Audi Sport Team Joest)
  • 24h Rennen - Le Mans 2010 Romain Dumas (F) Audi R15 TDI #9 (Audi Sport Team Joest)

[Source: Peugeot]
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Technical report and looking forward to the future

Three weeks after the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours, and after inspecting the cars that contested this year's event, Peugeot Sport looks back at the problems that affected the 908 HDi FAPs in the French race and provides details of its plans for its Intercontinental Le Mans Cup programme during the second half of the season.

Looking back to the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours

Bruno Famin (Technical Director, Peugeot Sport): "To begin with, with regard to the N°3 908 HDi FAP which retired 2½ hours into the race, we have found a quality-related problem concerning the production of the tub at the point where the lower front-right suspension wishbone is attached to the chassis. This is the same tub that won the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours and the 2010 1,000km de Spa-Francorchamps, and – like every 908 chassis – is regularly inspected at the factory using sophisticated tools that enable us to detect ageing or damage to the carbon. The problem in this case, however, was due to a totally undetectable defect which resulted in a premature and sudden failure of the mounting point.

As far as the engines are concerned, it didn't take us long to confirm that all three engines suffered the same problem, i.e. conrod failure, although the cylinders that were affected were different. Further investigation has just revealed that the particularly severe conditions encountered at Le Mans in June led to excessive overload of the V12s in question.

Indeed, the track benefited from high levels of grip this year, so the engines spent longer at full throttle than we expected. At the same time, the weather stayed cool and, unlike previous years, the air/air intercoolers did not become clogged up. The filling of the combustion chambers remained extremely efficient throughout, which in turn meant that the performance delivered by the engines was particularly high. Okay, the conditions were the same for all competitors, but we were running new conrods this year. That said, they had undergone thorough testing on the bench and during the numerous on-track simulations we carried out upstream of the race.

We didn't observe the slightest problem with them during any of these test sessions, so there was nothing to suggest that we were closer to the limit than we had imagined. As it turned out, the race conditions tipped us to the wrong side of that limit. Having contested the Le Mans 24 Hours three times, we had every faith in our processes. The evidence now points to the fact that this wasn't the case and that despite our growing experience, it is very difficult to master absolutely everything. The conditions we face at Le Mans differ every year, as do the constraints to which the cars are subjected. It is clear that we need to reinforce our validation procedures."

The second half of the season: the 2010 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup

Peugeot Sport's programme for the second part of the season will focus on the team's participation in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. Either one or two cars will take part in the three races that make up this series and Peugeot Sport's Director Olivier Quesnel has divided up the 'drives' amongst Team Peugeot Total's nine drivers as equally as possible:

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wait, so a 24hr race isn't a sprint?
        • 4 Years Ago

        I find it hilarious that the engineers' analysis absolves (wait for it) the engineers! It may not be a sprint but they have to be prepared for a tight battle. That requires speed, regardless of their plans to be the tortoise to another team's hare.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Well that makes sense, it was clear peugeot's drivers were wringing more out of the cars than they could handle, hell and bmw's at points (rrrr). Audi's strategy since the peugeots showed up has been to be more consistent even though they're slower, it's good to see they were able to raze peugeot enough to encourage their competitors cars to self destruct, kind of a combination of the strategies of the last two years.
        • 4 Years Ago
        True, but you can't really say they Audi's were slow.
        You don't beat the distance record by driving slowly.

        You could tell the Peugeots were running at the very edge though, they were getting squirly all the time and Davidson pushing the Corvette off the road. Very surprised to see Peugeot and then Team Oreca continue to push the cars like that after the first failures. I guess they were going for broke.
      • 4 Years Ago
      stupid conclusion ever ...PSA street car sucks so its logical a "racing" car must be bad too ...french engeenering ¬¬
      • 4 Years Ago
      You can blame all your drivers or you can take another stab at designing that con rod.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Reliability and speed win, bravo Audi!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Audi's threat forced the Pugs to push harder in every case. Ullrich acted like he knew they couldn't keep that pace.

      The tub failure... Seabass was jumping the curbs like a DTM driver. Who didn't see that coming?

      Great race. Can't wait for 2011.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Ullrich is a smart man, but he doesn't know what con rods Peugeot was running. There's no way he could be confident Peugeot couldn't keep up that pace. Any comments he made about that had to be more attributable to bluster and hopes than actual knowledge.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I wonder if the 908s would have failed earlier if the pace car debacle hadn't happened right at the beginning (effectively giving the 908s an early 1+ minute gap over the R15+s). As it stood, it made exciting racing watching the 7, 8, and 9 Audis climb as the Peugeots started failing....

      If it wouldn't have been for that BMW Art Car M3, TK probably would have added one more to his Le Mans titles.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The minute the 908s where up 3+ minutes they should have backed off on the engines and held to that margin. Audi followed the same strategy they did in 2008. They knew they were not the fastest, but also knew they had a car that could be pushed for 24 hours. Credit goes to Audi for sticking with a strategy that focused on finishing.

      The look on Dr. Ullrich face when the 4th 908 blew its engine was priceless. Almost like he was annoyed that he had no one to fight with for the finish.

      2011 should be interesting. Both Audi and Peugeots are going to have new cars...
      • 4 Years Ago
      Audi pushed them to the brink of failure, & had a front row seat to watch them drive over the edge one by one. Heard it said a million times, but it always drives home the point: to finish first, you must first finish. It was a great race though.
      • 4 Years Ago
      So the race cars engines failed because the RACE CAR went too fast? Wow umm ok.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Even in motorsport, you never work to the edge of failure. To finish first, first you must finish. Designers should never sacrifice strength to achieve a weight loss. Instead they should look at new materials or processes.

        I've worked in F1, it was in our design manual to not make marginal designs for the sake of a few grams, especially on parts that would be a show-stopper.
        • 4 Years Ago
        yup, not sure why you're shocked, engines are built with specific tolerances in mind, even endurance engines.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @zamafir: Those tolerances should never be able to be reached by the car in any conditions it could experience in a race. Even in F1 parts aren't designed to such fine tolerances, and Le Mans racing is considerably harder on the cars.
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