Although it no longer partakes in Le Mans prototype racing, Peugeot hasn’t abandoned motorsports altogether. In fact, it announced today it wants to race its new World Rally Championship car – the 208 T16 – up Pikes Peak this summer.
“Last year, when we announced the end of our endurance racing program, Peugeot Sport drew up a list of potential projects, and that list included Pikes Peak,” says Maxime Picat, director of Peugeot’s automotive division. “This exceptional event fits perfectly with the brand’s international growth drive and appeared to us to be an exciting challenge.”
We wouldn’t read into that “international growth drive” or the fact that Pikes Peak is located in Estes Park, Colorado as a sign that Peugeot wants to sell cars in America for the first time in nearly 22 years. Pikes Peak does attract considerable attention from around the globe, and as Picat herself even confesses, sending the 208 T16 up the hill with famed WRC champion Sebasian Loeb behind the wheel “has the potential to generate extensive media coverage.”
That’s a given, especially since Peugeot’s last attempts at Pikes Peak are nothing short of legend. In 1988, Peugeot Sport adapted its new 405 Turbo 16 racing buggy – which shared its powertrain with the legendary 205 Turbo 16 Group B rally car – to blast up Pikes Peak. Ari Vatanen drove the 600-hp winged wonder to the top of the mountain in 10:47, setting a new record in the process.
“The car’s acceleration on tarmac made me think this is how it must feel to be catapulted off the deck of an aircraft carrier,” Vatanen recalls on his personal Web site. “Watching the Climb Dance video, you can hear me playing with the clutch. It was necessary to do that to maintain sufficient turbo boost. If I’d changed to a lower gear, all four wheels would have just spun insanely. In my younger days I had to play with the clutch because of a lack of power, but now I had too much of it!”
His run is forever enshrined in the cult Climb Dance short film, but the 405 Turbo 16 returned for a second run in 1989, shortly before Peugeot withdrew from Pikes Peak competition and the American market altogether.
This summer’s run will be quite different. A different driver, a different car, and a different road, as the entire course was paved in tarmac in 2011. Will Peugeot be able to recapture some of the magic of its previous attempts? It certainly hopes so, given its teaser video for this year’s Pikes Peak run leans heavily on Climb Dance footage, but time will tell. The window for success is small – Picat says for now, Peugeot’s return to Pikes Peak is a one-off affair.