Olivier Jansonnie, technical director at Peugeot Sport, made the claim after the best of its 9X8s led the double-points round of the World Endurance Championship on four separate occasions and was running among the frontrunners until the 12th hour of the race.
“It was a turning point; it was our best race so far,” said Jansonnie. “We showed some race pace, and on some occasion here we were very good.
“All the work we have been doing for four years is finally paying off – we are pretty proud of that.
“Our level of preparation when we arrived was way better than for a six-hour race. That is an element that will be key for the preparation of the next races.”
The performance followed a series of disappointing displays in the opening three rounds of Peugeot’s first full-season in the WEC after three exploratory races last year.
Jansonnie conceded that the 9X8 couldn’t match the Ferrari 499P or Toyota GR010 HYBRID LMHs that finished first and second in round four of the 2023 WEC, but pointed out “that we were really close at some points”.
#94 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8 of Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes, Nico Muller
Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images
He also expressed satisfaction with the reliability of the Peugeot LMH, even though both cars encountered problems in the latter stages of the race and dropped down to eighth and 27th respectively, 12 and 30 laps in arrears.
“On reliability we suspected many things could happen, but it was relatively smooth for 20, 21 hours,” he explained.
He also gave credit to the in-house Peugeot Sport team for getting the two 9X8s to the finish after they ran into problems.
“I am proud of the team: they were fighting like crazy to fix the cars to keep them running,” he said.
“We had to go into survival mode.”
The #93 Peugeot shared by Paul di Resta, Jean-Eric Vergne and Mikkel Jensen was running fifth into the 21st hour when it encountered first a problem with the front bodywork and then the power steering, which dropped it to eighth place.
It spent the majority of the final hour in the pits before returning to the track in Muller’s hands for a single lap in order to be classified as a finisher.
Menezes got the #94 car into the lead during the first of two wet portions of the race in the third hour.
The car would lead a total of 34 laps and was running third early in hour 12 when Menezes went off at the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight.
Vergne lost two laps early in the race when he half spun and beached #93 on the kerbs at Mulsanne Corner with the loss of two laps.
He and his team-mates would remain within two laps of the leader until the 19th hour.