Endurance Racing News and Stories

Peugeot: Choice between low drag and high downforce at Spa

Phil Oakley

Peugeot technical director Olivier Jansonnie told media at Spa-Francorchamps that the classic Belgian circuit is always a “question” between low drag and high downforce for car setup.

“Every car we’re racing here, there’s always a question mark between low drag and high downforce. To be realistic, the range of adjustment we have within the regulations is not huge. It’s a small adjustment between the two, but typically it’s the kind of track where there’s a question on that. 

“So that’s something that I think we and probably all the teams will have to address during the testing in free practice.”

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Spa’s first sector comprises the first corner at La Source, followed by the run through Eau Rouge and Raidillon, then down the Kemmel Straight. With the cars full throttle from the exit of La Source to the end of the straight, this requires high top speed and therefore low drag to cut through the air with less resistance.

However, the second sector needs the car to be capable of generating more downforce, in order to cope with corners like Les Combes, Bruxelles, Pouhon, Fagnes and Stavelot.

The third sector, meanwhile, starting at Stavelot II, through Blanchimont and the Bus Stop, requires a mix of the two. This makes car setup a headache for the teams, as Jansonnie implied: do you pick a high downforce setup and be slower on the straights, or a low downforce setup but be slower in the twisty sector 2?

The other issue this causes is tyre wear, with low drag setups tending to have higher tyre degradation over a race distance.

Olivier Jansonnie, Peugeot Sport technical director, with the new 9X8 at Imola. Image: Peugeot

“There’s some interest from Peugeot trying to get the top speed with the low drag, but at the same time, there’s a risk of degradation, which you have to extrapolate because you can’t cover a double stint in free practice anyway,” said Jansonnie.

“So you try to make as much, but the remaining half a stint or even one stint, you have to extrapolate from what you see on the first stint.”

However, Jansonnie also said that Peugeot are seeing progress compared to the old, wingless 9X8.

“We see some interesting progresses compared to the old car. It will actually be very interesting — this is the first track we go racing with the new car, that we’ve been racing with the old car on that track.

“So we’ll have some reference. We struggled quite a lot last year on this track, it was the third race of the year, we had Portimao between Sebring and Spa, but that one was quite a tough one.

“So we’re interested to see what happens for the new car. The track had been used as some sort of benchmark to try to understand the biggest weaknesses,” he concluded.

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