Loosely based on Peugeot's Juke-sized compact crossover, the 2008, Peugeot will take its new off-road vehicle to one of the toughest events in the world: the Dakar Rally. Spanish World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz will pilot one car, while Dakar motorcycle expert Cyril Despres will command the other car--giving Peugeot a real chance at victory, just as it had at Pikes Peak. And just like the hill climb, Peugeot has previous success on the grueling rally, dominating the event from 1987 to 1990 with 205 and 405 T16 models.
As you might expect, the Dakar challenger shares about as much with its road-going counterpart as the Pikes Peak 208 did. It is a two-door car where the production car has four doors, while Peugeot has changed the car's dimensions to fit a true rally-suitable chassis underneath. The front end is also much shorter than that of the production vehicle, giving the car its necessarily high approach angle. It has the essence of the road vehicle, in other words, without its restrictions.
You might have noticed the raised suspension and 37-inch tires too--necessary for conquering the Dakar's tough terrain. Peugeot has actually opted for two-wheel drive, rather than four-wheel drive--giving it weight advantages and the option of greater suspension travel. This is no problem for Sainz, whose last few Dakar attempts have been at the wheel of two-wheel drive cars--and the Spaniard is convinced such a layout can win the event. "I know that Peugeot Sport has the necessary expertise, technology and means to pull off what is a unique and stimulating challenge for everyone in the team," he adds.
Together with partners Red Bull and Total, Peugeot's Dakar challenger is every bit as convincing as its Pikes Peak 208--but the Dakar's unique challenges will make the event a great deal tougher than the legendary hill climb. We'll have to wait until January 2015 to find out whether Peugeot's investment--and Sainz and Despres' skills--will pay off. Currently, the team to beat is Germany's X-Raid and its MINI Cooper Countryman-based ALL4 Racing.