To take on the 10,000km of the world’s longest and toughest cross-country rally 25 years after the French car manufacturer last contested the event, the team has recruited Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres.
Last June’s memorable new record of 8m13.878s for the ascent of Pikes Peak confirmed that Peugeot Sport had lost none of its taste for motorsport. After emphatically showcasing its expertise on the celebrated climb’s steep, demanding course, the team could easily have contented itself with last year’s one-off foray. However, its passion for competition needed feeding with further stimulating new challenges and the next one will be the infamous Dakar.
Following last year’s intense adventure in the lofty mountains of Colorado, USA, Peugeot Sport, Red Bull and Total have decided to set their sights on the wide open spaces of South America which provide the backdrop for the toughest cross-country rally of them all. Inevitably, the decision recalls a particularly successful period in the history of the French team which made an indelible mark on the Dakar by winning the legendary competition four years running from 1987 until 1990, first with the 205 T16 Grand Raid, then with the equally iconic 405 T16 Grand Raid.
In between times, the Dakar has traded the dunes of northwest Africa for the tracks and trails of Latin America which are every bit as punishing for competitors and their machines. It is here, a quarter of a century after its last participation, that Team Peugeot Total will take on its next challenge with a new car, the 2008 DKR. After last June’s 20-kilomètre asphalt sprint, it’s a two-week 10,000km marathon that will put Peugeot Sport’s all-round skills to the test in January 2015.
The Dakar will naturally be the chief focus of Peugeot’s new, multiyear programme which will also include a certain number of other events in order to help it to prepare for the annual South American marathon. The team’s driver line-up stars the 2010 Dakar victor Carlos Sainz, who brings his extensive experience and car-development skills to the table, as well as the event’s five-time winner on two wheels, Cyril Despres, who has chosen Peugeot to kick off a new career on four wheels.
Both drivers are eager to discover their car which was concocted by the same team that was behind the development of the 208 T16 Pikes Peak. More information about the car will be revealed at the Beijing Motor Show on 20th April 2014.
Four questions to Maxime Picat, Peugeot CEO - "Our aim is to win the Dakar in 2015."
What is the reason for Peugeot’s Dakar comeback?
Maxime Picat: "It obviously follows in the wake of our Pikes Peak victory in 2013. That was a very special moment which showcased what Peugeot Sport is capable of achieving in association with Total and Red Bull. It was a win that gave us wings and led us to take a close look at what other motorsport programmes we could do together. The result of that process was the decision to return to the Dakar."
Is Peugeot’s Dakar programme as ambitious as last year’s Pikes Peak operation?
Maxime Picat: "Our Pikes Peak programme was a success because we succeeded in bringing together an outstanding driver, a remarkable team and a car of the very highest quality. We have set our sights high for the Dakar, too, and the team will once again be able to count on all the necessary talent and skills. Our intention is to have everything in place for next year’s Dakar, even though our strategy is based on a longer term than was the case for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, since we will be involved for several years. We are perfectly aware that the Dakar is a very difficult event but our aim is nonetheless to win at first attempt in 2015."
How important an event is the Dakar for Automobiles Peugeot?
Maxime Picat: "We are delighted to be returning to the Dakar because it’s an event which enjoys extensive coverage globally. It is well known in Europe, as well as in such important markets as South America and China. It takes place in South America, with much of the action in Argentina where Peugeot has traditionally enjoyed a strong foothold."
Why did you decide to compete with the 2008?
Maxime Picat: "The 2008 conveys a strong image on every continent. It is our latest crossover and is proving a big hit in Europe, ahead of its launches in China and Latin America in 2015. The 2008 DKR stood out as the obvious choice."
Three questions to Bruno Famin, Director of Peugeot Sport- "We are very proud to have Carlos and Cyril in the team."
Peugeot Sport can look back at an excellent record on the Dakar. Will your past results be of help for your new challenge?
Bruno Famin: "The Dakar has changed a great deal in the past 25 years but you still design cars in the same way. We still have a certain amount of data from the late 1980s which we will be able to use. Above all, though, we have built up considerable experience of designing rally cars. Cross-country rallies and conventional rallies are effectively slightly different, but the approach and knowhow are exactly the same. And that know-how is something we have."
What guided your choice of drivers?
Bruno Famin: "First let me say how proud the team is to be able to count on the services of two such hugely talented drivers as Carlos and Cyril. Their respective profiles are perfectly complementary. Carlos has an incredible record in motorsport and his car development skills are well documented. In all the teams he has worked with, he has contributed to producing winning cars. His experience will be an important asset for the team, while his enthusiasm and will to win are just as exceptional. Cyril has an impressive record, too, although on bikes, of course, and he is looking forward to discovering the world of motorsport on four wheels. Judging by the way the two are getting along together, I am sure it won’t be long before Cyril is competitive."
How did the staff at Peugeot Sport respond to the news of this comeback?
Bruno Famin: "The reaction of everyone at Peugeot Sport has been very good. The announcement of a programme for the medium term is obviously excellent news after the difficult years we have experienced recently. At the same time, the Dakar is an integral part of Peugeot’s history and everyone is very proud to be involved in this event again. We actually still have some people who were part of the original adventure, and one of them has already started working on the new project."