It was a mountain carved out during the 1800s by an estimated 100,000 prospectors hoping to strike it rich by discovering a hoard of gold nuggets. After years of digging out the Colorado Mountains, Pikes Peak has since recovered and is today designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Once a year, the tranquility of this historic mountain is broken by the boisterous sounds of racecars aiming to become the fastest up the peak. For years, automotive manufacturers from all over the world have taken their modified cars up Pikes Peak, hoping to carve their own legend in a race against time. The principle behind the so-called “Race to the Clouds” is simple and involves each competitor taking turns to drive the 20-kilomter course that twists its way along the mountain’s flanks to reach its summit at 4,301 meters in the shortest time possible!
Racers line-up at an altitude of 2,800 meters, as competitors face an altitude difference of some 1,500 meters. The lack of oxygen is a challenge not only for the engines – which can lose up to 30 percent of their power – but also for the drivers who must remain focused on the 156 cliff-lined corners, which is an exercise of dexterity and meticulous preparation, with a little bit of luck thrown into the mix. Over the years, the dirt trail has been gradually paved and the 2012 event was the first to take place entirely on asphalt.
One of the most successful runs up the peak was that of World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb driving a Peugeot 208 T16. The car was based on a 208 with modifications and custom bodywork done to it by Peugeot Sport. Visually, the 208 T16 Pikes Peak variant looks ferocious and very aggressive. The car tat Loeb drove in Colorado boasts of a highly distinctive design: “Its proportions are very different to those of the production 208,” observed Michael Trouvé who is in charge of silhouette design at Peugeot’s Styling Center.
“This difference gives it an almost beast-like appearance. Peugeot Sport provided us with a number of technical constraints, such as the width, body height, location of the wheels and engine, and we worked to this brief to produce an extreme take on the 208,” he added.
The work of Michael Trouvé and his colleague Attila Bocsi has resulted in a car with a unique stance. “The cars which represent the brand in motorsport have always tended to feature sculpted forms which combine style and aerodynamic efficiency. The 208 T16 Pikes Peak is no exception, and it incorporates all the distinctive hallmarks of the 208 which itself marks a new generation of Peugeot design,” said Trouve. “I am very proud to have played a part in this adventure, especially since we didn’t have much time to work on the car’s design.”
Very powerful, aerodymanic
The car’s aerodynamics naturally was not sacrificed in the name of style. Based just a few kilometers from Peugeot Sport, the team of stylists was able follow the different build phases: “The rear wing, which is that of the Le Mans 24 Hours-winning 908, and the splitter are two features of the car which give it its beast-like attitude. And I am amazed by the beauty of the parts concealed by the carbon bodywork,” he said.
The 208 T16 is powered by a twin-turbo 3.2 liter V6 that has 875 bhp on tap. That’s a figure higher than not only the bulk of today’s supercars, but Formula One cars as well. Its forced induction is a riposte to the predicted 30 percent loss in power that naturally aspirated engines face between the climb’s 2.865-meter high start point and the 4.301-meter peak. Claimed acceleration figures are rather impressive – 0 to 62 mph takes 1.8 seconds, 0-124 mph 4.8 seconds, and 0-149 mph is completed in 7.0 seconds.
Aside from the powerful engine, the T16 is amazingly lightweight at just 875 kilograms, which is a far cry from the standard Peugeot 208s. Its running gear (including pushrod suspension), brakes vented carbon discs, 380mm front, 355mm rear) and aerodynamic setup – including that behemoth, 2-meter wide rear wing, was adopted from a former Le Mans competitor, the 908 HDI endurance racer.
The French driver set a World Record in 2013 behind this French beast, which also marked the first competitive outing for the 208 T16. Loeb set a blistering time of 8 minutes and 13.878 seconds, shattering the previous record in the “unlimited class” at Pike Peak of 9 minutes and 46.164 seconds.
BY DINO RAY V. DIRECTO III PHOTOS BY PEUGEOT SPORT