Today is the 100th running of the Indy 500. Many race fans don’t know that first race was won by Dario Resta driving an L45 Peugeot. On Friday, Peugeot unveiled its L500 R HYbrid race car, a daring, bold, and innovative hybrid race car that commemorates that win.
The L500 R HYbrid will never see production, of course, but it does show that Peugeot, which has not sold automobiles in the US market since 1991, is still in business. That makes it one of very few manufacturers to survive the last 100 years. The list of car makers who have fallen by the wayside in the past century is long and littered with far more famous names — Bugatti, Duesenberg, Packard, and hundreds more.
The L500 R HYbrid is a plug-in hybrid that uses two 500 horsepower electric motors assisted by a 270 horsepower gasoline engine. 0-100 kph is said to require only 2.5 seconds. The cockpit of the concept car is a study in modern technology. There are racing oriented screens and two hologram displays.
The L500 R HYbrid is unconventional in many ways. Unlike the cars you will see at the Indy 500 today, it is a closed wheel, closed cockpit racer designed for both maximum speed and maximum driver safety.
100 years ago, intrepid drivers tiptoed around The Brickyard in fragile cars that were little more than an engine, a chassis, and a seat for the driver. The tires were barely 3″ wide. It took courage to drive them at speed and luck to survive if there was any sort of accident during the race.
Today, driver safety has a much higher priority. The Peugeot L500 R HYbrid may be a precursor to motor racing in the 21st century. Closed wheel racers are far more aerodynamically efficient and safer when two cars come together on track.
The only similarity between the Peugeot of 100 years ago and the concept car of today is that they both have 4 wheels — and are finished in the same electric blue. Both represent the pinnacle of motor racing technology at the time they were built.