Peugeot has signed former Audi factory driver Nico Muller to its 9X8 Hypercar programme, with the Swiss taking up a test and development role this year before racing the car in the FIA World Endurance Championship next year.
Much like former teammate and countryman Rene Rast, Muller has left the Audi Sport programme to seek opportunities elsewhere, with the future of Audi’s sportscars, including the R8 LMS customer programme, in considerable doubt.
That opportunity is racing for Peugeot in the FIA World Endurance Championship next year. It’s not clear who the Swiss will replace on the programme, whether that be James Rossiter, Jean-Eric Vergne, Mikkel Jensen, Loic Duval, Paul di Resta or Gustavo Menezes.
Those six drivers have been with Peugeot since the start of the programme. Rossiter was formerly Peugeot’s test and development driver, while Kevin Magnussen was a race driver in the car. But when Magnussen announced his shock return to Formula 1 with Haas earlier this year, Rossiter was promoted to a full race driver.
It remains to be seen whether Rossiter will re-assume his former role of test and reserve driver next year, with Muller replacing him, or whether another driver will leave.
Muller said: “When I made my Le Mans debut in June, I went to have a look at the 9X8 showcar that was on display in the Fans Village. It was quite spectacular! I then got a chance to see it in action when it raced for the first time at Monza, in July.
“To my eyes, it’s the most striking Hypercar out there, and immediately recognisable as a Peugeot! Above all, it has real potential, as shown by the progress already made at Fuji. I have every confidence in the team and its ability to make it a winner.”
Director of Team Peugeot TotalEnergies, Olivier Jansonnie, said: “Nico is a talented driver with an impressive record in several series, including the FIA WEC. He has driven an LMP2 prototype this year and demonstrated the sort of speed and constancy that Team Peugeot TotalEnergies looks for from its drivers.
He has a good team approach and is fully committed to trying to win Le Mans and the world championship. James Rossiter is our test and reserve driver, as we announced in 2021. His experience and performance make him a key part of the 9X8’s development process, both on the racetrack and in the simulator.”