Have Wings, Will Fly: </br> Inside The Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak
Making history

Ever since the earliest years of motoring, man has been looking for ways to go faster. The pursuit of ultimate performance through speed is how the Thrust SSC became the first land-based vehicle to go supersonic when RAF pilot Andy Green pointed it to 763mph (1,228km/h) on the Black Rock Desert back in 1997, and why last year, Antron Brown went zero to 300 meters (NHRA’s Top Fuel class mandate) in 3.70 seconds at 328mph.


Although the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb –  a 19.99-kilometer long, 156-corner deep ascent from an altitude of 2,865 meters through 4,301 meters – is about as far removed as you can get from land speed record proving grounds or a straight, flat, drag strip; ever since the first running of the event on ‘America’s Mountain’ almost 100 years ago, the bar has continuously been raised.


The dramatic lunar-esque landscape that helps define the world’s most famous hill climb hasn’t changed since Rea Wentz set the original pace with a 20:55.600 time in his Romano Demon Special at the 1916 event’s feature race, but full paving of the challenging road course and a consequent provision that has allowed the use of full slick tyres, make the PPIHC a very different beast to the one it originally was. Some said the ‘Race to the Clouds’ would fade away into oblivion once the Pikes Peak Highway lost its original all-dirt DNA, but following the event of 30 June 2013, it feels like more of a new beginning.


That, of course, is thanks in part to the driving talents of this man: nine-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb.


And this machine: Peugeot’s mind-numbing 208 T16 Pikes Peak.


As he does every year, Larry delivered some amazing post-event coverage from this year’s PPIHC, but a few days prior to Loeb rewriting the record books with his unfathomably-quick 8m13.878-second sprint to the summit, Sean was invited to take a behind-the-scenes look at Peugeot Sport’s operation during a private test session at Pikes Peak International Speedway.


An opportunity to see one of the greatest triumphs of performance automotive engineering with its clothes off? Some things in life just don’t require a second thought.

Engineered to win

Although the 208 T16 programme came together in a very short space of time, you could say that Peugeot’s return to Pikes Peak was 25 years in the making. After all, the French automaker was hardly going to let the important anniversary of Ari Vatanen’s winning drive in its 405 T16, a savage machine spawned from the Group B era of rallying and the gruelling Paris Dakar endurance race, pass quietly.


As many who have tried will attest, engineering a car to win the PPIHC is easier said than done – let alone in just six short months. But amazingly, that’s all the time Peugeot Sport were allocated ahead of its first scheduled shakedown. Building something completely from scratch was never going to be possible given the constraints, but with a team of talented engineers and a successful Le Mans prototype endurance racing programme to draw upon, it knew where to start.


In much the same way Peugeot engineered its 205 T16 to take on Audi’s Sport quattro and Lancia’s Delta S4 during rallying’s wildest years, the 208 T16 features a tubular chrome-moly steel chassis wrapped in custom-formed carbon fibre panels.


In order to achieve Peugeot Sport’s desired kerb weight of just 875 kilograms, extreme measures were taken – perhaps nowhere more evident than in the construction of the doors. As you can see, these are essentially made up of a few layers of carbon fibre and thin polycarbonate windows.


Similar Group-B-meets-modern-day methodology has been taken beneath the lightweight composite skin too, with four-wheel drive and a high-powered turbocharged engine.


The latter is an evolution of the 3.2-litre DOHC 24-valve 60-degree V6 Peugeot ES9 JS4 unit that Courage utilised in its Pescarolo C60 Le Mans prototype. Originally Peugeot Sport had toyed with the idea of developing the hybrid (diesel turbo and electric) powerplant from its factory-entered 908 HDi Le Mans racer for the 208 T16 application, but given that engine’s physical dimensions and weight – not to mention the time constraints imposed upon them – the untravelled road was quickly ruled out.


That made the ES9 the obvious choice. In Le Mans guise the engine had generated more than 500 reliable horsepower with energy-sapping FIA restrictors in its turbocharger inlets, but with a revised pair of Garrett compressors and absolutely no requirement to be corked up for the Peak, Peugeot Sport’s 875 horsepower goal – for a 1:1 power-to-weight ratio – was never going to be too much of a stretch.


Seeing all that power to the ground as effectively as possible, required a driveline specification of equal magnitude. Peugeot Sport tapped into its WRC resources for the transmission, integrating a six-speed sequential gearbox in a longitudinal position and equipping it with steering column mounted paddle shifters.


The rest of the driveline, and in fact the rest of its underbody componentry, is all derived from the Le Mans 908, but adapted to fit around the 208 T16’s custom chassis. That includes the suspension design, which revolves around double wishbones and pushrod/rocker arm actuation at all four corners, along with torsion bars, pressurised dampers, and adjustable anti-roll bars.


The Brembo brakes are 908 fare too; specifically 380mm vented carbon fibre rotors and six-pot monoblock calipers at the front end, and a 355mm package at the rear.


Engineered using Formula 1 technology, the 18×13-inch OZ Racing wheels at all four corners feature magnesium construction. And then there are the tyres: 31/71×18 slicks that Michelin designed and manufactured exclusively for the 208 T16 and the record-chasing challenge.


Unsurprisingly, there’s been a no-nonsense approach to the interior space, where the focus once more has been on weight minimisation – although not at the expense of safety.


It’s here where you’ll also find an intricate web of 4130 steel bars that form both the chassis and the occupant cell, as well as supporting other devices such as the steering mechanism.


For optimum weight distribution, ancillary devices are spread evenly around the cockpit and, like pretty much every other Pikes Peak Unlimited class car, the driver seat is centrally mounted.

Peak performance

If you had to pick the 208 T16’s one defining feature, surely it would have to be the way it looks. Based – and I use that term very loosely here – off Peugeot’s 208 production car,  the outward design of the Pikes Peak machine was executed at Peugeot’s Design Center using dimensions and parameters set by Peugeot Sport.


With speeds on the hill ranging between 50km/h at the tight hairpin turns through to 240km/h on the longer straights, the aerodynamic aspect of the build was hugely important. But with no time to prototype a scale model and undertake wind tunnel testing, Peugeot Sport turned to Exa Corporation and its PowerFLOW simulation software (which had been previously utilised on its 908 programme) to fully maximise the performance of the T16’s downforce aids.


There are many aspects to the aero package, but from a visual standpoint the pièce de résistance is a two-meter wide wing that Peugeot Sport derived directly from the first-generation 908 HDi FAP endurance racer.


As radical and aggressive as its outward appearance might be though, underneath the car is where a full-length carbon fibre under-tray resides, and that, according to Peugeot Sport, is where almost half of the 208 T16’s downforce is generated.


Combined, the aero aids provided the Peugeot with enough downforce that during the car’s vigorous shakedown, Loeb likened it to an Formula 1 car.


With so much invested into Peugeot’s Pikes Peak comeback, not to mention that 25-year anniversary of its iconic first win, Loeb was under huge pressure to deliver a winning performance. But, if there was anyone in the world who could be relied upon to bring home the title, it’s the man they call Le Patron – translation: The Boss.


Peugeot knew it had a car and the crew more than capable of rewriting the record, but there’s so much more to winning the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, given that it all boils down to just one single run up the hill. The weather for instance, can change in a blink of an eye in this harsh environment, as past winners Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima and Rod Millen both found out during their individual attempts in the Electric Division.


But, as we all know, it was a dream run – and two-seconds quicker than Peugeot Sport’s calculations suggested the time the car could achieve if driven faultlessly in perfect conditions. Loeb’s average speed: 145km/h.


It’s been said that the 8m13.878-second record-rewriting blast up the mountain may never be broken, and given that overall second place getter and 2012 PPIHC winner, Rhys Millen, finished more than 50 seconds behind Loeb, if the day does come, it might be some time away. According to Peugeot Sport head Bruno Famin, there is no plan to return in attempt to raise the bar even further. He hasn’t completely ruled out the idea though, especially if another manufacturer decided to have crack, much in the same way Peugeot originally did, when it broke Audi’s stronghold in 1987. For now though, the feat made by one man and his wild machine on June 30, 2013 goes down in the history books as one of the greatest motoring achievements of all time.



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

As a Colorado Springs local and PPIHC attendee 14 years in a row, this article literally hits home for me. I have much respect for Loeb and Peugeot, they came in and completely changed the game. But I still feel that the thought off the record being "unbreakable" is only limited to what the unlimited class can put together. I have a strange feeling we will see this become a manufactures battle, but with local talent at the wheel. Drivers like Paul Dallenbach, Spenser Steel, Greg Trachy, Jeff Schwartz, and of course Rhys Millen. Granted Rhys is no local, but he has been a Pikes attendee for long enough to be considered. I wouldn't doubt the underdogs, they do know the mountain better than anyone. Great article, and I cant wait to see you guys next year. I met Sean at fanfest (we talked near the Evasive FRS), but didn't get to meet that wild man Larry, or any of the other Speedhunters. Come again next year! Thanks guys!!!!


Carbon fiber brakes? Somehow I've never heard of those before. Can anyone explain? It seems like carbon fiber would have terrible heat dissipating abilities.


I never thought of this car being a modern day Group B machine, but I can totally see it. Bring back Group B!


ssbeane F1 cars and aeroplanes have been using carbon-carbon-composite brakes for over 30 years. C/C is basically carbon fiber in graphite matrix. C/C's advantages are low weight, resistance of high temperatures and thermal shocks and low coefficient of thermal expansion.


Vittorio Jano ssbeane Strange... but awesome. I've only ever heard of carbon ceramic brakes before. I guess C/C brakes aren't the kind of thing people put on their daily drivers.


@TomKimmell : I'm planning a trip for next year to Pike's Peak myself.  I have family in Colo Springs and Denver so it definitely needs to happen.  The fires interrupted my plans last time but next year I'm hoping I can make it.


That guy....


No record is unbeatable, but Peugeot and Loeb have raised the bar to another level! This was the first works effort on the "new" (i.e. all tarmac) Pikes Peak. Another works effort is surely the only way this record could be toppled now as, despite culling a huge amount off last years run, Rhys Millen was still nowhere near Loeb.


ssbeane Vittorio Jano C/C brakes need to get hot before they start to work well, so they don't work on road cars. Carbon ceramics (usually silicon carbide) are a development of c/c and work much better on road cars


@TomKimmell lol, wild man.


Oh lordy...


oh my god 1:1 power to weight ratio!!
50 seconds difference from the second place! peugeot FTW!


Larry Chen You are! Sneaking past Chinese security at the WDSC...I know all to well, my dad is a freelance photographer. He did some stuff for Kenworth trucks back when they had a  big rig running. I will see if I can dig up some of his old pikes photo's. Back when they it was a dirt road!


"one of the greatest motoring achievements of all time"
Thanks Brad, when you're french, it's heart touching to read that, specially in these hard times. Almost got a tear ;-)


What would that Formula 1 technology be exactly in the LMP sized OZ 18×13-inch wheels? Just the fact that they are magnesium?
F1 limits wheel diameter to 15 inches. I'm sure these wheels are pretty particular to the car here but they didn't reinvent the wheel.


I hope they get more practice time that previous years that the drivers/teams have voiced about... MOre and more people are trying at that mountain..


Awesome work Brad and Sean.

I think Peugeot need to have a crack at WTAC. We can swap them for Nemo who can have a crack at Pikes Peak.


I was thinking the same thing till I realised that this particular Peugeot would not meet the regulations for WTAC due the things like the position of the engine, WTAC regulations state that it must be in the same location as the original car (that means the mid mount engine doesn't comply though I think they do allow the engine to be moved up to two inches from it's factory location) and WTAC cars must have the same drive type as the original car (that is if the original car was FWD then that is all it is allowed to have, so no AWD conversions.
So with a few minor changes Peugeot should be good to go.


BrockHarvison Then Peugeot should make road versions for homologation.  And give me one.


Simply one of the best articles on your. Looks great with the new website and, well also outrageous stuff made by Peugeot. 908+208=PureRacing (without limits). Looking forward to next years IHC @ PP. 


it's funny when Loeb drive for Peugeot and his racing suit has "Citroen" badge lol


vinzx You're dumb. Same company.


vinzx Do you know a company called PSA? You dont, sorry! Dumbass!


NicholasMaher  No but they (OZ and Michelin) are working on a technology for the road, did you even see a Bugatti Veyron or another hypercar on 15 inches? Here is the question...


manintmoct it was awesome to see fly past in person!


13mmwrench I bet! Seeing the video made me all fuzzy inside! Haha


manintmoct ill be watching next year too


13mmwrench If I have funds and time it'd be fun!


I attended the PPIHC for the first time this past year and it was beyond amazing to see and hear this machine barrel up the mountain; the fact that he destroyed the record made it all the better. If you have a chance to go next year don't hesitate. Its awesome.


What? your reply is complete nonsense, do you even have the slightest comprehension of what I said? Do you understand what I said? One more time. There is NO F1 technology in an LMP sized wheel and tire setup. None. Zero. Zilch.
You know in France they have yellow lights. I like bacon.


Munch like an Audi is a Volkswagen is a Skoda.
Theres no reason calling anyone a dumbass.
Psa is the carporation behind Peugeot and Citroën however they are still competing over the same custumer bare so it actually IS funky thathers he has Citroën clothes on..


NicholasMaher I'm not 100% sure, but I think you'll find F1 still uses a 13 inch wheel?


it's a french car, remember.
when the game is fresh, smooth tarmac, never ever underestimate the french.
even in World Rally Championship, in the late 90's, with a 2-wheel drive car (FWD only!) they humiliated the world's best 4WD offerings on tarmac (RIP Bugalski!).
I am convinced, however, that it won't be that long before this record is beaten, as the huge difference from the 2012 times comes primarily from the immense difference that can be yielded by designing a purely-tarmac Unlimited-Class car, compared to the partly-gravel designs of pre-2013 PPIHC designs.  
on the other hand, the real achievement and superiority lies in the fact that PSA (OK, Peugeot........;) ...  ) did this with a very limited development time available, and with what is essentially (apart from the engine) a "parts-bin" car, really - this would mean that, whoever might attempt to break this record, PSA shall probably have a "secret development" programme running in parallel, that would enable them to improve on this result and strike back either on-the-set or in only one year period.
without underestimating what they did, which is undeniably a shocking time, I am convinced that they possess the know-how to shave another 15-20 seconds of this time even now, as we speak, not to mention if another year of development is thrown-in.
anyway, this was a perfect example of how to get the best possible marketing&cred value-per-dollar-spent by using a massive change in the layout/pavement of a legendary race-track.
and I congratulate PSA on that smart move, and especially Loeb on the exemplary driving act without which this time couldn't be even remotely achieved.


@TomKimmell Glad you liked the article and it was nice meeting you! Hopefully I'll return next year...


georgievski32Those FWD French things with Bugalski driving certainly did win some but they never came close to humiliating the WRC cars of the time.
How did they do that? They ran about 500lbs lighter than the 4WD WRC cars, that's how.
You know, as do I, all else being equal the 4WD car is always going to win. Bugalski driving or not.