(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) After their extraordinary adventure in 2013, which saw them smash the record for the celebrated Pikes Peak Hill Climb, Peugeot Sport, Red Bull and Total have again joined forces for another exacting yet equally exciting challenge: the Dakar.
To take on the 10,000km of the world's longest and toughest cross-country rally 25 years after the French car manufacturer last contested the event, the team has recruited Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres. Last June's memorable new record of 8m13.878s for the ascent of Pikes Peak confirmed that Peugeot Sport had lost none of its taste for motorsport. After emphatically showcasing its expertise on the celebrated climb's steep, demanding course, the team could easily have contented itself with last year's oneoff foray.
However, its passion for competition needed feeding with further stimulating new challenges and the next one will be the infamous Dakar. Following last year's intense adventure in the lofty mountains of Colorado, US, Peugeot Sport, Red Bull and Total have decided to set their sights on the wide open spaces of South America which provide the backdrop for the toughest cross-country rally of them all.
Inevitably, the decision recalls a particularly successful period in the history of the French team which made an indelible mark on the Dakar by winning the legendary competition four years running from 1987 until 1990, first with the 205 T16 Grand Raid, then with the equally iconic 405 T16 Grand Raid.
In between times, the Dakar has traded the dunes of northwest Africa for the tracks and trails of Latin America which are every bit as punishing for competitors and their machines. It is here, a quarter of a century after its last participation, that Team Peugeot Total will take on its next challenge with a new car, the 2008 DKR. After last June's 20km asphalt sprint, it's a two-week 10,000km marathon that will put Peugeot Sport's allround skills to the test in January 2015.
The Dakar will naturally be the chief focus of Peugeot's new, multiyear programme which will also include a certain number of other events in order to help it to prepare for the annual South American marathon. The team's driver line-up stars the 2010 Dakar victor Carlos Sainz, who brings his extensive experience and car-development skills to the table, as well as the event's fivetime winner on two wheels, Cyril Despres, who has chosen Peugeot to kick off a new career on four wheels.
Both drivers are eager to discover their car which was concocted by the same team that was behind the development of the 208 T16 Pikes Peak. More information about the car will be revealed at the Beijing Motor Show on April 20. Peugeot's relationship with the Dakar in the past extends well beyond the cold, if impressive statistic of its score of four victories from four starts. On the contrary, it is founded on the many, occasional improbablesounding tales the French make has to tell after contesting some 48,125km of competitive action in northwest Africa between 1987 and 1990.
On January 1, 1987, all the ingredients were in place to maximise Peugeot's chances of success on the Paris-Alger- Dakar' at first attempt. Its driver line-up included a certain Ari Vatanen whose 205 Turbo 16 was fittingly allocated number 205', an ideal way of promoting the brand's emblematic model. Unfortunately, an accident on the event's short Prologue near Paris saw his car suffer serious damage and the Peugeot star fell to a lowly 274th overall! The rally had only just started, but the incident provided the team with a timely reminder of the Dakar's uncompromising nature, however accustomed Peugeot Sport may have been to the ups and downs inherent in rallysport.
Days later, team-mate Shekhar Mehta learned the same lesson while leading when the carefully-prepared game plan for his 205 T16 was spoilt by an inexplicable engine problem. Thankfully, Ari Vatanen's thrilling fight-back enabled him to recover top spot and eventually collect Peugeot's first Dakar triumph after some 13,000km competition.