Although we’ve enjoyed watching the diesel-powered racers from Audi and Peugeot battle it out for dominance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it seems that rivalry is no more. Peugeot’s press office officially confirmed earlier this morning that the automaker was withdrawing from the 2012 Le Mans series.
The withdrawal certainly isn’t due to a lack of success. After a 14-year absence from prototype endurance racing, Peugeot returned to Le Mans in 2007 with the 908 HDi FAP. After two years of giving Audi’s R10 TDIs a good run for their money, Peugeots took 1st and 2nd-place finishes in 2009. 908 HDI FAPs also helped Peugeot win the LMP1 manufacturer’s title in the 2010 and 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.
As is frequently the case when automakers pull out of racing, the decision is primarily economic. Peugeot’s global volumes in 2011 fell by 1.3 percent, despite the fact that markets outside of Europe were both up 48% and accounted for nearly half the 2.1 million cars sold. European sales dropped eight percent, while volumes in Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, fell six percent.
“This decision has been taken against the backdrop of the challenging economic environment in Europe, coupled with a particularly busy years in terms of new vehicle launches,” according to an official corporate release. “Peugeot prefers to concentrate its resources on its commercial performance and ensuring successful launches which will take forward the brand’s strategy of moving upmarket and extending its global presence.”
Peugeot had launched a second-generation 908 for the 2011 season, and was preparing a long-rumored hybrid version of the car for 2012 – but the program has apparently gone the way of the 905 (i.e. it’s history), and that car is stillborn. As a result, this leaves Audi without a formidable and regular competitor in LMP1 class. Toyota is preparing an LMP1 car of its own for 2012, but will only compete in selected events.