Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Peugeot Suspends LMP1 Programme for 2012

Peugeot has announced it is immediately suspending its LMP1 Program and will no longer compete in the 2012 24 Hours of LeMans.

The unfathomable news came on the final day when teams had to submit their applications to compete in the World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of LeMans.

In a public statement released early Wednesday, Peugeot cites a lagging economy as the reason for the decision. The company is refocusing its priorities on sales growth and a revamped product portfolio, which comes at the expense of its involvement in sports car racing.

‘The Brand has decided to close its 2012 endurance programme and will not be taking part in the next Le Mans 24 Hours,’ said the statement. ‘This decision has been taken in the context of a difficult economic environment in Europe. Peugeot has chosen to concentrate resources on its sales performance in 2012.’

Things had not been rosy for Peugeot and its parent company Peugeot-Citroen (PSA). Stagnant sales in a down European Economic climate forced the French automotive conglomerate to undergo drastic consolidation. As part of its €800 million cost-cutting plan in order to stay in business, Peugeot-Citroen was forced to lay off over 6000 employees. The cancellation is the latest round in PSA’s continuing efforts to eliminate as much extraneous expenditure as possible, and casts doubt over the long-term viability of its World Rally Championship programs. 

Peugeot’s absence in LMP1 means Audi Sport will soldier on as the dominant factory effort in the prototype class. The Audi / Peugeot rivalry has been the subject of much controversy over the years and a publicity dream for the ACO, spurring much renewed interest in endurance racing.  The titanic battle between the two giants became the subject of a dramatic documentary in 2008 titled ‘Truth in 24’.

The program’s cancellation also means some of its factory drivers are left unemployed with no seat for the looming 24 Hours of LeMans. Alex Wurz will be joining the new Toyota LMP1 factory team alongside Kazuki Nakajima and Nicolas Lapierre and will campaign at select races for the 2012 season, while Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud both found salvation in full time rides in the IndyCar Series in North America. The fate of Peugeot's remaining drivers however remains up in the air. 

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