2011 Peugeot 908 dawn pit stop - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
With the announcement that Peugeot Sport Total is closing its endurance racing program for 2012, the sanctioning group of the 24 Heures du Mans, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) weighed in on this momentous sea-change in sports car racing.
"As creator and organizer of the Le Mans 24 Hours and promoter of the FIA World Endurance Championship, the ACO deeply regrets this decision," the group stated in a formal comment.
After five years competing in the 24 Heures du Mans with a 2009 victory under its belt - as well as wins in 14 of 16 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) races (with only the 2010 and 2011 Le Mans races outside its victory count) and two consecutive ILMC championships in its LM P1 class - Peugeot decided to park its turbodiesel coupes and place its emphasis on launches of a quintet of road-going vehicles, two of which are hybrids.
The ACO is a bit taken aback with the departure of its reigning titleholders, particularly with the creation of the new FIA World Endurance Championship, a new series which the ACO believes elevates the future of endurance racing.
Despite Peugeot's departure from the 80th anniversary Le Mans summer twice-around-the-clock classic, the 2012 race has attracted star-studded fields. With today, January 18 the final date to submit entries for both the Le Mans race and the WEC championship, ACO said it has received "a host of entries, including those from numerous major manufacturers faithful to Le Mans." The ACO considers this proof of the growing dynamism of endurance racing.
"It's a big disappointment for the Le Mans 24 Hours and for the FIA World Endurance Championship starting in 2012," said Jean-Claude Plassart, president of the ACO. "The WEC was created at the request of the manufacturers, in particular Peugeot. There is no doubt that the hundreds of thousands of fans who flock to Le Mans every year and the millions of viewers who follow the race on TV, will regret the French make's absence," he declared.
The list of entries for the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours and the FIA World Endurance Championship will be revealed on February 2.