On May 30 100 years ago a Peugeot L45 driven by Dario Resta won the Indianapolis 500 at an average speed of 135km/h. This year (2016) this Peugeot L500 R HYbrid – a futuristic interpretation of that Indy spirit – is paying tribute to the incredible Charlatans team which brought Peugeot three victories on the Indy 500 speedway between 1913 and 1919.
As a racing concept for intense driving sensations the L500 R HYbrid (the HY capitals are Peugeot’s) hugs the asphalt to deliver its full potential right from launch. With a wide track, metre-high profile and weighing only 1000kg, the L500 R HYbrid delivers awesome performance: 2.5 seconds to 100km/h or 19 to cover 1000m.
It was developped by Peugeot Sport teams as a 372kW plug-in hybrid with two electric motors (one front, the other rear) plus a 200kW petrol engine yielding peak torque of 730Nm.
The car’s sleek lines run from the lion badge on the radiator grille and past the driver to end in a streamlined boat-tail (a nod to the car’s century-old ancestor) highlighted by three distinctive rear-light claws – part of Peugeot’s design identity today.
The racing experience, Peugeot says, is amplified by an holographic i-Cockpit: because the car was designed to be one with the driver the physical sensations experience are amplified by a cockpit that is a floating capsule enclosed in the body.
The i-Cockpit technology takes a radically new motorsport stance with its tiny steering wheel embedded in the structure and holograms showing vehicle information as dual disc displays.
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The Peugeot teams, in their relentless quest for aerodynamic perfection, has re-interpreted the original L45 two-seat architecture as a single-seater with a virtual co-driver, one amplified through a virtual-reality headset.
The L500 R HYbrid, Peugeot says, is a timeless, extending into the future with its forward-looking design that obviously acknowledges the prowess of its predecessors and proudly shows off some of the brand’s modern design identity.
The front lighting signature is like that for the Peugeot 3008 SUV; the striking blue-and-black colour scheme is a reference to both the petrol/hybrid drive and the finish of the original L45.
RACING TRIBUTE TO INDY PROWESS
The L500 R HYbrid, Peugeot explains, pays tribute to the L45 and to Peugeot’s illustrious history in the USA, when the Lion brand took three victories in the 500 Mile (800km) event at the Indianapolis Speedway, the world’s second-oldest racetrack.
The L45 (for 4.5 litres) took over from the L76 put together in 1912 by a team of intrepid young drivers called The Charlatans which produced a whole series of race cars that would open a new age in race-engine design that continued through to 1919.
The L76 was the first car to use a four-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder and a dual overhead camshaft. It was also the first modern racing car to reach 190km/h.
At the wheel of Peugeot’s first racers – L76, L57, L3 and L45 – The Charlatans claimed success after success on racetracks around the world. Drivers Georges Boillot, Jules Goux and Paolo Zuccarelli, with engineer Ernest Henry, enjoyed enduring renown for bold innovation.
The team’s early American exploits were the start of a string of exceptional victories for Peugeot Sport in the USA: Ari Vatanen (1988) and Robby Unser(1989) won the Pikes Peak hillcimb with a Peugeot 405 T16 and Sébastien Loeb’s Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak made a record-breaking run in 2013, covering the 20km to the summit in 8min13.878.
TRIBUTE TO PEUGEOT’S RACING PROWESS
There’s no let-up in the spirit of conquest at Peugeot: this was made clear, for example, when Stéphane Peterhansel signalled Peugeot’s comeback to the Dakar with four successive wins from 1987-90.
Matthias Hossann, Peugeot’s concept-car and technological progress chief, explained: “With the Peugeot L500 R HYbrid we’re paying tribute to Peugeot’s racing exploits dating to the early 20th century. Inspired by that spirit of performance and innovation we wanted to convey a sculptural, elegant and technological view of the future of Peugeot motorsport.”
There is no doubt whatsoever that they have succeeded.