International rally champion Sebastien Loeb shattered the Pikes Peak Hill Climb record with a breath-taking time of 8m13.878s in the Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak, blitzing the previous best of 9m46.164s, set by New Zealand’s Rhys Millen last year.
Frenchman Loeb negotiated the 20.1km and 156 corners of the Colorado mountain at an average speed of 141.7km/h.
“For me, this was the race of the year,” said Loeb at the finish, 4300m high in the Rocky Mountains.
“At the beginning of my run there was a bit of pressure for sure because I knew there was so much work and investment from Peugeot and all the partners. Now, after all the practice, it was just down to me and I had to perform.”
The nine-times World Rally Champion unleashed the all-wheel-drive 208 T16 to record a time that was quicker than the 8m15s the team’s computer came up with, based on data from Loeb’s practice runs.
The 875kg car was powered by a mid-engined bi-turbo V6 developing 652kW. “I really didn’t expect anything better than 8m15s, so to do 8m13s was fantastic,” said Loeb.
“Before the start I didn’t really know if I should push absolutely to the maximum or if I should just push to a comfortable pace, in order to make sure of the victory. In the end, I decided to push to the limit.”
The scenes of success at Peugeot were reminiscent of 1988, when former WRC champion Ari Vatanen broke the Pikes Peak record for the French carmaker 25 years ago, with the 405 T16 Pikes Peak. Back then the benchmark was 10m47.220s on gravel roads.
Second-placed Millen recorded 9m2.192s – 49s behind Loeb – in his Hyundai RMR PM580-T and said he’s determined to break the nine-minute barrier next year.
“I think it’s fair to say that we were racing for second place,” said Millen. “I knew I wasn’t going to beat Sebastien’s time, so I just decided to take no risks.
“You have to hand it to Loeb and Peugeot Sport: they were unbeatable. That time they set was simply incredible. When will it be beaten? It might never be…”
The annual Pikes Peak “race to the sky” is the second-oldest car race in America after the Indy 500.