For the few of you in the world that didn’t watch it live via the Red Bull TV web site a couple of weeks ago, video of Sebastien Loeb’s record setting run up Pikes Peak is below. Not only was it an amazing drive by a driver that I feel is the greatest of at least his generation, but it was also an amazing team effort by Peugeot. Peugeot Sport returned to Pikes Peak for their 25th anniversary since Group B era driver and WRC champion Ari Vatanen made his world record run up the mountain in the then Peugeot 405 T16 on the then mixed surface climb to the top.
Peugeot has been eager to show off their new model 208 and designed a special 208 T16 Pikes Peak from the ground up just for this run. The twin turbo beast of a machine hearkened back to the Group B days with large wings, 4wd, a sequential gearbox, and a twin turbo V6 rated at over 850 HP (at sea level anyway). In earlier testing Loeb said it was hard to get used to how violent the car was with all that power as he went up through the sequential gearbox. Being Loeb, it didn’t take him that long to get comfortable with the car and soon he was able to push near the limit.
To just recap, Pikes Peak is the second oldest motorsports event in the USA behind the Indianapolis 500. The start line is at an altitude of 9,390 ft, which is larger than any mountain peak east of the Rockies. The finish is 12.42 miles and 156 turns later at 14,110 ft. It is said that 30% of your engine power is lost by the time you reach the top. The now fully paved route begins in the middle of a dense pine forest, where an off can come to an abrupt stop (just search YouTube of Paul Dalenbach’s Pikes Peak wreck last year). As the drivers climb up through the switchbacks, the trees thin and the corners tighten until they break out into what can only described as a Martian landscape. Above the trees their are few barriers and ever larger rocks. An off can mean plummeting hundreds of feet down the mountain side. This is where the iconic sections such as Ragged Edge, Devils Playground, and Bottomless pit can be found as drivers make their way to the summit. Not only is the landscape different, but drivers must deal with changing conditions near the top as well. On a clear day it can be 85 degrees at the start and at or near freezing temperature at the very top.
The Peugeot Sport crew of engineers and mechanics were as professional as a Formula 1 team. They used all the tricks including tire warmers as they prepared for the start. Loeb was holed up away from fans in deep focus for the task at hand before hopping behind the wheel. Loeb said himself that there is only one shot at this. Unlike a rally where if you have a puncture or make a mistake, you can make up for it on the remaining stages. Pikes Peak is a one time, one shot deal. I’ll admit that I thought experience would be a factor and the former record holder Rhys Millen had a chance. However, when combining the engineering marvel of what Peugeot brought to Colorado with the tarmac rally skills of Sebastien Loeb, Millen really didn’t have a chance. In testing, Loeb was already 20 seconds faster than Millen in the short test sections the week before the event. We all knew then that the previous 09:46.164 record from Millen last year would fall, but the question was by how how much?
So without further ado, here is Sebastien Loeb’s in-car POV view of his Pikes Peak record run of 8:13.878 which simply SMASHED the previous record. The best quote of the day was probably by the former record holder Rhys Millen himself “I think it’s fair to say that we were racing for second place today,” …”You have to hand it to Loeb and Peugeot Sport; they were unbeatable. That time they set was simply incredible. When will it be beaten? It might never be…”