Peugeot has sprung a surprise after announcing its sportscar programme for the 2009 season with the news that David Brabham will form part of the French's team assault on the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Like rivals Audi, the French squad has elected not to take in a full-season of competition this year and will instead contest only selected events in the run up to the La Sarthe classic in June, when it will hope to take the win that has eluded the 908 HDi for the past two years.
Brabham's signing is one of two changes to the driver roster for the season ahead, with Toro Rosso F1 driver Sebastien Bourdais also returning to the roster having missed the 2008 Le Mans event.
The pair replace Ricardo Zonta and Jacque Villeneuve, with the remaining seven drivers from 2008 – Marc Gene, Nic Minassian, Christian Klien, Franck Montagny, Pedro Lamy, Stephane Sarrazin and Alex Wurz all returning.
In preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours, the Peugeot squad will take part in the Twelve Hours of Sebring next month and will also race in the Le Mans series race at Spa in May. No decision has yet been taken on the team's programme after the French classic.
"Our busy test programme notably includes endurance simulation tests at a variety of circuits, and we will take part in two races upstream of Le Mans which will serve as full-scale dress rehearsals for everyone in the team,” Peugeot Sport chief Olivier Quesnel said. ”We have consequently chosen to compete in March's 12 Hours of Sebring, which is the opening round of the American Le Mans Series, with two cars and six drivers. We will then take three cars in Belgium for the 1,000km of Spa- Francorchamps in May. We haven't yet decided what our programme after the Le Mans 24 Hours will be.
“We are looking at the different options to ensure the best possible exposure for the brand in promotional and media coverage terms, and also as a function of the level of competition. Last but not least, the livery of the 908 HDi FAP has changed. All the cars will now be predominantly blue, with the cockpit covered in a reflective chromelike aluminium covering aimed at keeping the temperature inside the car to a minimum. This endurance programme is only possible thanks to the assistance of our partners."
The two events prior to Le Mans will serve as a test for the team as it takes onboard new regulations laid down by the ACO for the season ahead.
"The engine settings have been completely revised to take onboard the new air restrictor dimensions and the lower turbo pressure which has resulted in a fall in power of approximately 10 per cent," technical director Bruno Famin said. "Significant work has gone into the 908's aerodynamics, too, in order to re-optimise the car's balance following the notable reduction in the width of rear wings which has been cut from two to 1.60 metres. We are also continuing with development work aimed at putting air-conditioning in the cockpit with a view to ensuring that the temperature inside the car stays within the regulatory threshold.
"At the same time, we are working on enhancing the car's performance potential. This includes ongoing work on weight reduction in a bid to get close to the minimum limit, even with air conditioning, as well as optimisation of the diesel engine's combustion, particulate filters (in association with Dow) and fuel injection (with Bosch), plus research into defining best possible chassis/tyre package (with Michelin)."