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Endurance: “Not succeeding with Peugeot is not an option”, warns Jean-Eric Vergne

Jean-Eric, how was the winter between development of the current car and the one that will succeed it from May at Imola?.

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Endurance: “Not succeeding with Peugeot is not an option”, warns Jean-Eric Vergne

Jean-Eric, how was the winter between development of the current car and the one that will succeed it from May at Imola?

Jean-Eric Vergne: Everything went well. We continued to develop the car we had last year and all its systems. We are entering the season more ready than ever. Whether it is the engineers, the mechanics or us, the drivers, we are ready for the resumption of the championship.

The Peugeot 9X8 suffered from a significant performance deficit last season compared to its rivals. Will it be partially filled?

I am convinced that we have taken a step forward in testing but only the race times will be decisive. Those signed on a track without competition in a test configuration are not too important. We will settle on our place quite quickly but I am convinced that we have improved our understanding and the functioning of the car.

Do you think Peugeot will be able to make the podium for the season opener in Doha this weekend?

I tell myself instead that we will try to do our best and see where our efforts take us. I've changed my way of seeing things a little: I don't really like setting specific goals anymore because if they aren't met, you leave the race disappointed and that can send you into a negative spiral. By setting the ambition to give your best, to not make any mistakes, even if you finish fifth, you can leave with satisfaction and remain positive. I prefer not to put too much pressure on the team and the other drivers.

In May, you will have the new car, a highly anticipated version of the 9X8 which is announced with a rear spoiler this time...

(He cuts) Everyone expects a lot from this car. The past two seasons have been difficult with the 9X8 and that's why this new car is coming. And as we always do something new to do better…

What were your first impressions behind the wheel?

Good ones! But once again, driving alone on a circuit has nothing to do with competition weekends. For my part, I try to control as best as possible everything that is controllable by offering good feedback to the engineers. We must be impeccable when it comes to the development of the car.

Is Peugeot dreaming of a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans or is it illusory next June?

If I was team principal of a team and I had drivers who didn't dream of winning at Le Mans, I would fire everyone (laughs)! But there is always a big difference between dreaming, doing the work to get there and getting there. Yes, we all dream of a victory there, yes, we put in the work to get there. But winning? We'll see on site.

The 2024 season will be that of a Franco-French duel in the premier category against Alpine. What do you think of this reunion?

First of all, I wish them success and that they have results. But whether it's Alpine, Ferrari or Toyota or Lamborghini, it's just one more opponent to beat.

We know the pragmatism of Carlos Tavares, the leader of the Stellantis group, parent company of Peugeot, even if he particularly appreciates Endurance. Could a bad season mean the end of the Peugeot adventure in this discipline?

I have full confidence in the entire Peugeot team that this season will be a success. Believe me, we will not go to Le Mans telling ourselves that we will finish 15th but to win. I'm not starting the season by thinking about the hypothesis you just mentioned. All this does not occur to me and we do not discuss this subject between us either. Anyway, failing is not an option this year.

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