How Loeb's Pikes Peak charger punches its weight

We take a look under the hood of Sebastien Loeb's stunning Pikes Peak Peugeot 208 T16...

The Peugeot 208T16 for the first test track at the Peugeot test center in La Ferté-Vidame, France, on April 18th, 2013
© Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

The challenge of any race car designer is to come up with the fastest, most efficient car but still conform to the race regulations.

That means juggling with such areas as height, body shape and the size and location of the engine.

It’s stimulating, of course, but can also be a frustrating business. Deep down, engineers want to through away the rule book and design the ultimate racing machine.

Designing this car was a tremendously rewarding experience.

The ‘Unlimited’ class of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb is the only race in the world that allows engineers to unleash the pure racing beast that lurks at the back of their imagination.

“Your imagination is the only limit when you set out to design a car for Pikes Peak,” grins Jean-Christophe Pallier, the Peugeot Sport engineer tasked with the 208 T16 Pikes Peak project. “Designing this car was a tremendously rewarding experience, even though we still had to take the ‘time’ factor into account…”

The Peugeot 208T16 for the first test track at the Peugeot test center in La Ferté-Vidame, France, on April 18th, 2013
The 3.2-litre, bi-turbo V6 engine has 875bhp© Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

The Pikes Peak Hill Climb starts at 2,865 metres and finishes at 4,301 and that height poses a unique technical challenge of ensuring the engines can get as much air as possible at altitude.

“With a normally-aspirated engine, you lose one percent of the available power every 100 metres you climb,” says Peugeot Sport Director Bruno Famin.

By the time they reach the start line at Pikes Peak, engines can lose about 30% of their potential. So it’s essential that the design of the 208 T16 begins with a powerful engine.

Peugeot Sport’s answer is a derivative of the bi-turbo V6 which was designed for endurance racing at Le Mans. With this 875 horsepower powerplant under the bonnet, the 208 T16 Pikes Peak boasts more power than a Formula One car!

It’s the most powerful car ever driven by WRC’s nine-time champion.

Pikes Peak Hill Climb is truly motorsports on the edge, literally: there are no guard rails to keep drivers away from the steep drops.

To maximize acceleration, the Peugeot Sport team has focused on minimizing the car’s weight. “We’ve shaved it down to 875kg,” says Jean-Christophe Pallier. “As a result, we have achieved the magic and symbolic power-to-weight ratio of 1:1!”

We have achieved the magic and symbolic power-to-weight ratio of 1:1.

To ensure the car’s handling is as agile as possible, the weight distribution of the tubular-framed machine has been meticulously fine-tuned, with the engine sitting in a mid-rear position, like the famous Group B rally cars of the 80s and like endurance racing prototypes.

The 208 T16 Pikes Peak shares its genes with those of the Le Mans 24 Hours-winning 908. Last year, Pikes Peak took place on an all-asphalt course for the first time, so the machine conceived by Peugeot Sport is essentially an out-and-out endurance racing prototype. It shares the running gear, brakes and aerodynamic features like the air-intake and the two-metre wide rear wing which was originally used for the first-generation 908 HDi FAP.

And like a Le Mans car, the 208’s aerodynamic package has been meticulously honed. “We believe efficient aerodynamics can give us a competitive edge,” notes Jean-Christophe Pallier. “The speeds reached during the ascension range from 50 to 240kph, and aerodynamics play a key role from 100kph.”

The 208 T16 Pikes Peak’s hallmark rear wing and front splitter are not only aesthetically spectacular, but they are also incredibly efficient.

But even the less obvious parts play a crucial role: the under-tray generates almost half the car’s downforce…

Even the Michelin tyres are bespoke to give the 4WD beast invaluable grip.

To tackle the 156 turns that stand between Sébastien and the Colorado clouds, the most successful driver in rallying history will most definitely benefit from one of the most potent purpose-built engineered cars ever designed for motorsport!