Former winners Peugeot will not enter this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours race after announcing on Wednesday that they had pulled out of the new FIA world endurance championship for financial reasons.
“This decision has been taken in the context of a difficult economic environment in Europe,” the French carmaker said in a statement on the company website. “Peugeot has chosen to concentrate resources on its sales performance in 2012.”
Peugeot last won Le Mans in 2009, with their diesel cars finishing second, third, fourth and fifth behind the number two Audi last year.
Audi have won the race 10 times in the last 12 years.
PSA Peugeot Citroen, Europe’s second-biggest car maker, is struggling to rein in costs and revive flagging sales after a series of profit warnings. In October, Chief Executive Philippe Varin announced plans to save an additional 800 million euros ($1.03 billion) this year, including some 6,000 job cuts.
Jean Todt, president of the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) who managed Peugeot’s team when the carmaker won Le Mans in 1992 and 1993, was disappointed by the decision.
“To lose such a strong player like Peugeot is bad news, indicating what a tough period the automotive industry is going through, and this group in particular,” he said in a statement.
“I believe that it is especially true that in tough times one should find ways of expressing full commitment, rather than pulling out.
“But we can only respect their choice and hope that they can come back soon at the highest level of motorsport.”
While Peugeot will not have a works team at Le Mans, Toyota have already announced their return to the endurance classic after a 13-year absence.
The Japanese company, who finished runners-up to BMW in 1999, plans to compete in this year’s 80th edition of the race with a petrol hybrid car.
Le Mans organisers and endurance championship promoters the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) said in a statement it regretted Peugeot’s departure but the race remained in good health.
Wednesday also marked the closing date for entries to both Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship and the ACO said it had received many applications, including from major manufacturers.
The list of competitors will be published on February 2.
“It is a big disappointment for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship, which begins in the year 2012; A competition created at the request of manufacturers in general and in particular Peugeot,” said ACO President Jean-Claude Plassart.
“No doubt the hundreds of thousands of fans who flock to the 24 Hours of Le Mans each year and millions of viewers who follow will regret the absence of the Peugeot lions.”