Long before ‘Monster’ Tajima dominated the Pikes Peak Hillclimb event in America, there was a period when three European cars raced to the top of the 4,300-metre mountain at astounding speeds. This was in the mid-1980s and the cars were the Audi Sport Quattro, Peugeot 205 T16 and 405 T16. These were the Group B rallycars, with engines so powerful that the FIA decided to remove the category when a tragic accident made it clear that the cars were too dangerous.
So having spent a lot of money developing the cars, the motorsport departments of both companies looked for events where such cars could still be entered and one of them was the Pikes Peak event which was becoming more and more well known.
Audi came first and not only astonished the Americans with the speed of the Sport Quattro but the driver was a French woman, Michele Mouton, who almost became world rally champion in 1982. Together with co-driver Fabrizia Pons, she set a new record racing up to 20-km course with 156 turns.
After Audi has finished proving a point about its cars’ performance, Peugeot entered the event with its space-frame 205 T16, a potent made-for-competition rallycar. World Champion Ari Vatanen piloted the car and set another record and in 1988, with a bigger 405 T16, he again did a record-breaking run.
In 1989, Robby Unser, an American driver, gave Peugeot another victory in the ‘Race to the Clouds’ with the same car.
This year, Peugeot will return to Pikes Peak in June with the new 208 and to maximise its chances of winning, the company has enlisted the support of Sebastien Loeb, 9-time world rally champion. Loeb, who is a member of the Citroen rally team, is ‘on loan’ to Peugeot for the event.
The participation is said to be ‘a natural extension of its international offensive which is itself illustrated by the globalisation of its sales and the success enjoyed by the new 208’. Peugeot has prepared a special car for the event – the 208 T16 Pikes Peak – which will be unveiled in the middle of this month.
The 208 T16 Pikes Peak has been registered for the premier ‘Unlimited’ class and has been given the start number ‘208’. Since the days when the 205 T16 and 405 T16 raced up the mountain, the terrain has changed. Where the cars used to drift on gravel around the ‘open-air’ turns, the course is now a hard tarmac surface which means better grip.
Speeds have also risen over the years; in the mid-1980s, the fastest cars took about 12 minutes to get to the top but today’s fastest time is below 10 minutes (the record is held by a Hyundai Genesis which did it in 9 minutes 46 seconds last year).
Though many may think this participation marks Peugeot’s return to motorsport, the company’s brand CEO, Maxime Picat, says it is really not so. “Peugeot has never abandoned motorsport. To realise that, one only needs to look at the busy activity of our customer competition department and all the different competition versions of the 208 it has developed, namely the 208 T16, the 208 R2, the 208 Racing Cup and the 208 GTi Peugeot Sport. The latter will even take part in the Nürburgring 24 Hours as part of the 208 GTi Racing Experience operation which was run in parallel to the 208 GTi’s launch,” he said.
“Last year, when we announced the end of our endurance racing programme, we stated that Peugeot wasn’t closing the door to a future factory programme. Peugeot Sport consequently drew up a list of potential projects, and that list included Pikes Peak. This exceptional event fits perfectly with the brand’s international growth drive and appeared to us to be an exciting and stimulating challenge,” he added.
“Peugeot’s commercial successes have traditionally been accompanied by success in motorsport, so the decision to take on the challenge of this extraordinary, mythical, exacting competition – which also helped to forge the brand’s reputation in the late 1980s – is a perfectly natural one,” Mr. Picat said.
The new Peugeot 208 will be launched in Malaysia very soon. To know more or to book a test-drive, visit www.peugeot.com.my
Advertise used cars in Motor Trader for faster results!