With everything he touches turning to gold, few would bet against nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb from setting a new record at Pikes Peak this year and winning the event.
As part of the preparations for his first outing at the Colorado hillclimb event, Loeb had his first opportunity to test his Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak that he will drive on June 30.
With 875hp at his disposal, Loeb's helicoptered into the high-security track at La Ferté-Vidame in France, but after just a few laps he exclaimed: "The 208 T16 Pikes 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."
"I've never driven anything that accelerates so fast!" he continued. "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 gearbox from standstill. Thanks 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!"
In fact, the Peugeot is expected to reach 0-62mph in 1.8sec, which would leave any F1 car standing...
"Thanks to its aerodynamic downforce and wide tires, its braking is amazing, too." Loeb explained. "I have driven many types of car in my career, but this is very, very different. Its acceleration and stopping power are more like those of a Formula 1 car. Its handling is fantastic as well; there's so much grip, and the all-wheel drive transmission makes it very stable. It's got huge potential."
Tackling Pikes Peak isn't an easy challenge but Loeb is realistic about what he has to do: "This track isn't very wide and there aren't any run-offs, so I'm taking things one step at a time. I don't know what the car's limits are yet but it was important to do this run on a circuit today. Now we have a better idea of where we stand and a better overview of the car's potential. After that, the challenge will be to try to feel at one with the car on the Pikes Peak Hill Climb itself. That will take some work..."
To continue his task, Peugeot Sport has scheduled a test program of circuits, roads and at altitude to allow Loeb to familiarize himself with the car: "I really can't wait to get to drive the 208 T16 Pikes Peak in Colorado!" he concluded.