Peugeot Returning to Pikes Peak, With Loeb at the Wheel
- Peugeot will team with driver Sebastian Loeb for an entry in the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
- The French marque has two wins in the "Race to the Clouds," in 1988 and 1989.
- It's the first major factory-racing venture for the brand since the end of the 908 HDi FAP endurance sports car racing program after 2011.
PARIS — French automaker Peugeot, with two victories in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb already on its motorsport resumé, will take a shot at a third victory in this year's race, employing a formidable driver — nine-time World Rally champion Sebastian Loeb.
A special, race-purpose vehicle based on Peugeot's 208 compact, labeled the 208 T16 Pikes Peak, will compete in the race's Unlimited division, which had dominated the competition in recent years until Rhys Millen won last year in a production-based Hyundai Genesis Coupe.
Peugeot's Pikes Peak racer is scheduled to be revealed later this month. The race is scheduled for June 30.
Last year's Pikes Peak competition was the first in the long history of the event to be contested on a fully paved surface. The course covers 12.42 miles, with 156 turns, climbing to the 14,110-foot summit of the famous mountain named for explorer Zebulon Pike, near the center of Colorado in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.
Loeb has never raced at Pikes Peak, but Peugeot scored its first Pikes Peak triumph in 1988 with another World Rally Championship legend, five-time champion Ari Vatanen. The company recorded a second straight win in 1989 with Robby Unser of the famous American racing family from Albuquerque, New Mexico, driving.
Loeb is available for Pikes Peak duties because he retired from full-time WRC competition after clinching his ninth consecutive championship last year. He competed in World Rally for Peugeot's corporate cousin, Citroën.
Peugeot's quest for a third win on the mountain has some historical precedent going for it. In 2009, the brand secured a third victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans to go with victories in 1992-'93.
The effort comes in the centennial anniversary of Peugeot's first major racing victory on U.S. soil: Jules Goux won the third running of the Indianapolis 500 in 1913. Dario Resta won for Peugeot in 1916, the sixth edition of the race, the last one before a two-year suspension of Indy 500 races during World War I.
The Pikes Peak effort represents a continuation of Peugeot motorsports, not a return to racing, according to Peugeot Brand CEO Maxime Picat.
After the ending after 2011 of its endurance sports car program with the Le Mans-winning turbodiesel powered 908 HDi FAP, Picat said, Peugeot concentrated on serving customers who were racing in various series and looked for opportunities for ventures in major professional disciplines.
"We stated that Peugeot wasn't closing the door to a future factory (racing) program," Picat added. "Peugeot Sport consequently drew up a list of potential projects, and that list included Pikes Peak. This exceptional event fits perfectly with the brand's international growth drive and appeared to us to be an exciting and stimulating challenge."
Edmunds says: If early 20th century grand prix races are counted, Peugeot has enjoyed a measure of success in just about every major form of racing except NASCAR. The presence of Loeb will add considerable luster to the 91st Race to the Clouds.