On Friday, Peugeot unveiled the final homologated version of the 9X8 prototype that it plans to race from July this year. Months of testing and tweaking led to a product that looked slightly different from what was unveiled last year, but none of those changes deviate from the original radical plan of building a car. modern racing car without a rear wing. In fact, the design changes are certainly more unique, and arguably more drastic, than previously revealed.
We won’t know if the final product is actually fast until it shows up to race at Monza in a few months. In fact, the car’s delays to a schedule that might have allowed it to compete at Le Mans this year might suggest it was a disappointment at least in its first tests. Even if it’s not, it should be celebrated.
More than any other form of motorsport, sports car racing is about cars. The reputation of Le Mans was built on them. The Mercedes 300 SL, Ford GT and Ferrari 250 GTO are all directly linked to a Le Mans winner from the same family. Individual performance cars and the brands that make them built their reputations in sports car racing, and those reputations carry over to road cars to this day. The magic of racing is that it inspires these manufacturers to create unique things, to reinvent what it means to go fast and to bring this technology to their most exciting road cars.
Manufacturers have taken big swings as recently as the middle of the last decade. Nissan sponsored the spectacular Deltawing, of course, but their biggest innovation was the car they built themselves with that program’s chief engineer, Ben Bowlby. The resulting GT-R LM was front-wheel drive pulled in the dark, and, although it was sunk by reliability issues in its first run and never seriously developed from there, it was the proof that manufacturers were always ready to get weird in pursuit. of speed. The Peugeot is the latest in this range, a sports car that breaks away from over a decade of cars from all manufacturers looking a lot like the Audi R18 to do something very different.
The title is that the 9X8 runs without a rear wing. Two fins on the car’s endplates make this description a little less accurate than it was on the original concept, but the idea survives through to the final car. The end result of this design decision is the most unique prototype since the Deltawing. In the pictures it looks just a little stopped. It makes it fascinating in the same way expressive art can be, like it’s a puzzle waiting to be unlocked. It certainly isn’t pretty, but it looks decidedly good nonetheless. The company behind the 908, one of the most aesthetically pleasing prototypes in recent history, has done the exact opposite.
We’ll see if the 9X8 has the makings of a competitive racer in July, but it’s already a success in my book. The whole point of sports car racing is to push the limits in memorable ways, which the 9X8 is already guaranteed to do. We should all be grateful that Peugeot had the guts to try, and doubly grateful if they’re still interested in racing it here as a Dodge.
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