Nicolas Minassian has revealed that he is not going to make any predictions about the forthcoming sportscar campaign given what happened to Peugeot in 2008, but he does, he concedes, have one set objective – victory in the race dubbed the hardest in the world to win, the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours.
Last season, Peugeot had the pace to prevail at La Sarthe, at Sebring and in the European-based Le Mans Series – and yet came away with no major silverware for its efforts, as mistakes and niggling little problems crept in along the way to deny the Lion its triumphant roar.
Minassian – one of the team's star drivers since its return to prototype competition at the very highest level two years ago – will be making his tenth attempt at the round-the-clock French classic in June, and he barely conceals his determination to finally finish the job off after coming close to glory for the past two years in succession.
“I'm not going to make any predictions,” the 2000 International F3000 runner-up and former Champ Car ace told Crash.net Radio
. “I just want to win Le Mans! The prime thing with Peugeot is to win Le Mans, and I can see us being much better than last year because in 2008 we managed to erase all the problems we had encountered in 2007, and the problems we had in 2008 I don't think we will have in 2009.
“We're testing very intensively. Most of it is because we have new regulations regarding the rear wing, so we need to balance the front and rear. We've lost quite a large percentage of the aerodynamics, so it's got to be re-done in the right way, and engine-wise it's all about refining a bit more power because we've lost ten per cent there, which is quite a bit. The racing is going to be very close between everybody, I think, this year.
“I don't like to say we are the best now, because we have lots of respect for our competitors, but we've been working really hard. They (Audi) are going to have a new car, and good for them, but for us the main focus is to have a race like we had at Le Mans last year – only this time with no problems whatsoever.
“We will be pretty good, I think. The car is very good and we will make some improvements to interpret the new regulations better, and we're going to go for it like we did before – but hopefully it's going to come good this time...”
As a warm-up to the big event, Peugeot will once again be entering the Sebring 12 Hours later this month, and Minassian is confident that the Florida outing will provide invaluable preparation and track time to resolve any major issues and prevent them from re-occurring later on when it matters rather more.
Though from a personal point-of-view the UK-domiciled Frenchman acknowledges he will be pushing all-out for glory across the Pond, the primary concern is that of making sure Peugeot is in the best possible shape to avenge its past two defeats at Le Mans – and see to it that 'third time lucky' really does live up to its promise.