Peugeot 908 LMP1 Tales: Dirty downforce

Image by Marshall Pruett

Peugeot 908 LMP1 Tales: Dirty downforce

Le Mans/WEC

Peugeot 908 LMP1 Tales: Dirty downforce


Today’s LMP1 Hybrid formula is a formula built upon extreme efficiency. Toyota’s TS050, faced with tiny amounts of fuel to use over each stint at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, is an aerodynamic marvel — a vehicle built around the absence of drag — to spare every drop of the precious liquid that combusts inside its twin-turbo V6 engine.

And then you have the 2007-2010 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP and its gargantuan twin-turbodiesel V12 powerplant that laughed in aero efficiency’s face, as Sebastien Bourdais, Anthony Davidson, and Pedro Lamy tell us in an excerpt from the Peugeot 908 LMP1 Memories podcast.

Davidson: “Their answer to everything was just basically bolt as much downforce on the car; dirty downforce, basically. Didn’t care about the drag because the engine would just pull through it. That was the whole philosophy of the car and to drive that was pretty epic because you just … I’ve never had that kind of same torque level from an engine ever again. It didn’t matter which gear you’re in, the thing just pulled through it. So, the machine was a bit more … it was old school. I mean, of course it was cutting edge at the time, but it was a basic car really, apart from the engine. That was where most of the tech was implemented into the motor.

“And it was just this ferocious 800-odd horsepower beast with all that torque, like I mentioned, that had these big straight wings on it. No real aerodynamic fancy sophistication or gimmicks, little flick-ups and turning vanes, blah, blah, blah. It was just a wing, a massive wing. And a venturi as big as they’ll let you put on. And the thing was, just the faster you went in it, the more downforce you got, it pulled through it.

“I’ll never forget sitting on the straight, the Mulsanne Straight, and it was just pulling in sixth gear. You were into sixth gear really early. You’d just race through the gears, you pulled them early, you got more power as you went through the gears, and you just sit there singing along at 3,000rpm, really low revs, and it’s just pulling through all this massive drag that the thing must have had. I mean, if you compare it to the cars of today, like the Toyota, it’s so unsophisticated.”

“The engine, if you looked from the back of the monocoque to where the rear axles were, it just went on and on and on and on.” Image by Marshall Pruett

Bourdais: “I think there were nine radiators on that car, if I remember well. Because that thing was making a lot of power, but obviously you had to cool it down and you had to dissipate so much heat that, yeah, it was something ridiculous. You could not have fitted that engine into a normal sports car, because it would not have had anywhere near enough cooling capacity to run it. Period.”

Davidson: “It was funny; it was like you take off the engine cover, and the engine, if you looked from the back of the monocoque to where the rear axles were, it just went on and on and on and on.”

Bourdais: “It’s a V12. I mean, that thing … I think they saved something like a couple million dollars’ worth of injectors when we downsized from the V12 to the V8, because those things were that expensive from Bosch. And yeah, it was a massive saving just on the injectors from cutting four cylinders off of the thing!”

Catch the full conversation below: