An unnamed WEC factory team member told Automotive News Europe: “There is a lot of lobbying going on to convince Peugeot to return to Le Mans racing, and the word is it is thinking about investing 80 to 90 million euros.”
“But if that's the case, I don't think it would be enough,” continued the source. “You need closer to 150 million euros - half of which is for the personnel alone - to really be competitive.”
Peugeot last competed at Le Mans in 2011, and its last win there was in 2009. The French marque withdrew from Le Mans before the first WEC season began in 2012, but it has recently shown interest in returning to the sharp end of the sportscar field.
Other manufacturers have reportedly been approached to fill the void left by Audi in the WEC, but Peugeot’s recent ties to the LMP1 class make it a strong candidate.
Porsche team principal Andreas Seidl said in the build-up to the 6 Hours of Bahrain: "Our personal preference is to attract a new manufacturer. For sure, it's not ideal that we lose cars now on the grid, especially a manufacturer such as Audi with all the heritage and history. But we also saw with Peugeot and Audi in the past that even that battle was quite intense and quite attractive.”
Audi pulled out of the WEC at the close of the 2016 season. While the racing division will remain active and focused on Formula E, where it competes under the ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport team banner, the switch has been linked to cost cutting following Audi parent company Volkswagen’s emissions scandal.
Next year’s Le Mans and WEC will feature only two factory LMP1 teams: Porsche and Toyota. Porsche announced its 2017 driver line-up today as Nick Tandy, Neel Jani, Earl Bamber, Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and André Lotterer.