Peugeot Sport has revealed that drivers with a total of almost 400 Formula 1 Grand Prix starts will feature in its driver line-up for the 2008 sportscar racing season.

In an expanded programme, the team will return to the Le Mans Series to try and defend its title, while also heading to America for the first time to take in the Sebring 12 Hour event. Peugeot will also run three cars in the Le Mans 24 Hours in the summer.

The main focus for the team will be to go one better at La Sarthe than in 2007, where the 908 qualified on pole for its debut in the event and then finished second in the biggest race of them all.

In an effort to better prepare for the big race, the decision has been taken to travel out to Sebring for the opening round of the American Le Mans Series, with the team aiming to build on its record-breaking pace during testing where the 908 lapped some two seconds quicker than the 2007 pole-time. Just one car will take part in the event, with Pedro Lamy, Nicolas Minassian and Stephane Sarrazin set to share driving duties.

"Our work has focused on saving weight and extracting superior, reliable performance from the engine with a view to enabling us to race at the same pace as we lap in practice, not to mention the optimisation of every one of the car's components," technical director Bruno Famin said of the work done to date and the thinking behind the entry into Sebring. "Given the little time we had last year, this was something we weren't able to do with the 2007-spec car. In addition to ongoing work on the aerodynamics, our programme has benefited the suspension, steering, differential and gearshift control.

"However, because of the weight inherent in the diesel engine, we have yet to get down to the minimum 900kg weight threshold specified in the new regulations."

Lamy, Minassian, Sarrazin and Marc Gene will also return to the Le Mans Series where Peugeot will come up against Audi after the German marque elected to bring its R10 to European shores for the season ahead.

Anthony Beltoise will act as test and reserve driver for the five-race season with Peugeot Sport director Michel Barge admitting it would be a challenging campaign.

"We will be out to defend our title, without losing sight of the fact that our priority is the Le Mans 24 Hours," he said. "We will face some fierce, experienced competition. That's what we wanted and that's what we've got! This promises to be especially valuable because we will have four races - Sebring, Barcelona, Monza and Spa - before the big one at Le Mans.

"The calendar is extremely busy and calls for complex logistics because we have also programmed numerous test sessions and simulation runs. With regard to the 2008 calendar's last race at Shanghai, which was announced last week by the ACO, we believe it's a pity it won't count towards the championship and we reserve the right not to take part."

The team has yet to decide the make-up of its driver line-up for Le Mans, where three 908s will be entered for the first time, two under the Team Peugeot Total banner and one by Peugeot Sport Total.

Aside from the regular four drivers, Jacques Villeneuve returns and will be joined by drivers with vast experience of Formula 1, with Christian Klien, Franck Montagny, Alex Wurz and Ricardo Zonta all being signed up for the 24 hour classic.

"Like last year, we wanted our 2008 line-up to be strong, very human, sporting and bonded," Barge added. "During the recruitment process, which was led by Serge Saulnier, we paid attention to all these factors, as well as the respective records and experience of the drivers in cars which are in fact very close to the 908 HDi FAP in the way they need to be set up and driven.

"Between them, our ten drivers have 393 Formula 1 Grand Prix starts under their belts, as well as 32 previous participations in the Le Mans 24 Hours!"

 

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