WHEN THE COMPETITORS line up in Buenos Aires for the start of the 2015 Dakar rally, in January, all eyes will be on Peugeot which is returning to the world’s toughest endurance rally after a 25-year absence.
It is coming to the rally with the new 2008 DKR, a car that looks fit for Batman but which will actually be driven by Carlos Sainz, a two-time World Rally champion and winner of the 2010 Dakar. His team mate, Cyril Despres, has won the Dakar five times – riding a motorbike.
The 2008 DKR is a menacing looking machine, one that dwarfs the model best associated with Peugeot competing at the Dakar, the 205 T16. That car won the Dakar rally in ’87 and ’88, at the hands of Ari Vatanen and Juha Kankkunen respectively.
Peugeot Sport turned to the same team that designs Peugeot road cars to create the 2008 DKR’s outlandish bodywork. It handed over a technical brief which, in a departure from convention, decided against using four-wheel drive. Following analysis of cross-country rallying, it believes that a two-wheel drive transmission gives better performance on sand surfaces, and allows for more suspension travel and larger wheels and tyres. The result is a 2008 that’s been given a “beach buggy” makeover.
There’s little reason to doubt Peugeot’s technical wisdom. In 2013 it contested the Pikes Peak hill climb – known as The Race To The Clouds – in Colorado, returning after its last victory in 1989. It built a car, the 208 T16 Pikes Peak, exclusively for the event and called upon the services of Sébastien Loeb, a nine-time winner of the World Rally Championship.