Peugeot 908 LMP1 Tales: Making permanent enemies at Paul Ricard

Sutton/Motorsport Images

Peugeot 908 LMP1 Tales: Making permanent enemies at Paul Ricard

Le Mans/WEC

Peugeot 908 LMP1 Tales: Making permanent enemies at Paul Ricard


At the end of the ornate exhaust headers on the twin-turbodiesel V6, V8, V10 and V12 engines made by Audi and Peugeot, massive particulate filters were used during the rich era of LMP1 competition between the two factories.

Installed to prevent the familiar plumes of soot and smoke expelled by the glowing diesel motors, those particulate filters worked wonders to alter the perception of diesels, and with the outrageous speeds generated by Peugeot’s 908 HDi FAPs and Audi’s R-series TDIs, an entire automotive market segment felt faster and friendlier as the LMP1s whooshed by in near silence.

As a marketing strategy, pushing the ‘clean diesel’ narrative was a massive success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but those particulate filters weren’t necessarily a perfect solution for all conditions.

In an excerpt from the Peugeot 908 LMP1 Memories podcast with Sebastien Bourdais, Anthony Davidson, and Pedro Lamy, a filtering problem at Circuit Paul Ricard during the early days of the 908 program, when current FIA World Endurance Championship CEO Gerard Neveu was in charge of the track, led to an incident that had the drivers howling with laughter, and the circuit boss fuming with smoky rage.

A dirty look for “clean diesel.” Image by Marshall Pruett

Bourdais: “I remember one of the first times we fired up at Paul Ricard, Gerard Neveu was chasing us probably 10 miles out of the racetrack, because he was furious with us because, basically, the smoke invaded. We didn’t know how much the thing was going to smoke, but it was a cold morning at Paul Ricard in November or whatever, and then, sure enough, the mapping of the engine when it was cold and firing up and warming up, was not dialed in, and so it’s like a white cloud that invaded the garage like very rapidly.

“It was pretty exotic fuel as well — it wasn’t anything like diesel that was off the shelf. Basically it completely filled the entire space. Then it worked its way into the engineering offices, through the corridor and the hallways and through the offices, because obviously, they have all the ventilation and the AC units.

“And all of this is carpet, for the ones who know Paul Ricard, and honest to God, two years later, you could still smell it. If you knew the distinct taste and smell of it, you could definitely say, ‘Oh yes, it’s still there.’ Despite their very best effort to clean and erase the smell, I think we still have the world record (for diesel smoke) over there.”

Catch the full conversation below: