Nine times world rally champion Sebastian Loeb’s been trying out his new 875bhp Pikes Peak Peugeot racer, and the flying Frenchman excitedly reports that it goes like a rocket! Indeed, it’s unlikely that there’s any rocket anywhere that can hit 62mph in 1.8 seconds – that’s faster than a Formula One car. All he has to do now is pilot the mega-missile up the twisting, turning Pikes Peak mountain-climb course, watching out for deathly sheer drops at almost every corner. He’s earning his paycheck for this one.
The Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak racecar was built from the ground up by Peugeot Sport, who know a thing or two about rally and endurance racing, and it’s clear that this is a big budget car running in the unlimited class at the famous Pikes Peak event, on June 30. Looking at the spec, power and driver, Peugeot clearly want to win this one, and with Loeb up front and 875bhp out back, I’d say they’ve got a very good chance of hitting the top of the peak in the quickest time.
Under the wide ‘n’ menacing raw-black-carbon of the 208 T16’s body lurks the very latest in motorsport-catapult technology. And even Loeb is finding it a little eye-popping.
“The 208 T16Pikes Peak is a rocket! It’s so powerful! The first time you drive it, each gear change practically stuns you. The shifts are really brutal, and it takes a little time to anticipate the sudden jarring. You get used to it, but it was quite disorienting to begin with.” Evocative words from the most winningest man ever to drive a rally car.
This uncharacteristic driver excitement no doubt stems from the ground up every time he’s strapped into the T16. Magnesium wheels fronting massive carbon vented discs, double wishbone suspension all-round with pushrod and rocker arm actuation for the torsion bars and pressurised dampers, and a handbuilt tubular steel chassis pulling it all together. Sat in the middle of all that, just behind Loeb, is a 3.2-litre, twin-turbo, V6 motor powering a 6-speed sequential gearbox and all-wheel drive. Throw in the super-wide slick Michelin tyres and as-much-downforce-as-they-could-muster, and it’s little wonder that Loeb gets a little scared and a lot excited whenever he drives the T16. With 875bhp pulling just 875kg, it’s entirely feasible that this thing will do 0 – 150mph in a scorching 7 seconds… up a very steep hill.
“I’ve never driven anything that accelerates so fast!” said Loeb. “In the lower gears, a Formula 1 car doesn’t deliver maximum power. With the Peugeot, though, it’s bang, bang, bang as you move up the box from standstill. Due to its four-wheel drive transmission and turbocharged engine, its pull-away performance is phenomenal! You find yourself in sixth gear at 150mph in no time at all!”
You’ve got to love projects like this one, and you’ve got to wish Loeb and Peugeot all the luck in the world for the win. This thing is going to be pure insanity going up the Pikes Peak run, and the rest of the field will have to come up with some pretty special cars to dash the T16’s dream in the clouds. Rest assured, they will try…
By Dan Anslow