Since the 2015 Dakar, Team Peugeot Total has continued to work on the development of technical evolutions for the PEUGEOT 2008 DKR at the same time as a busy testing schedule. This ongoing programme will now also include a participation in this summer’s China Grand Rally (CGR).
Team Peugeot Total faces a busy 2015, with its sights set firmly on the daddy of all cross-country rallies: the 2016 Dakar, the outline itinerary of which was recently revealed. “It’s what we were expecting,” says Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport Director. “We will begin with sand in Peru, which is what we were hoping for. That will be followed by some high-altitude running and, to conclude, stages that wouldn’t be out of place on a WRC rally and where two-wheel drive transmission isn’t necessarily ideally suited. Overall, it’s a more balanced route than the 2015 event. That said, we didn’t need to wait for these details to be released to start fine-tuning every imaginable aspect of our game plan.”
From the engine, to the suspension and chassis, every part of the car’s performance has been analysed and has evolved. Engine testing was carried out in the Paris region in February and, a few weeks later, the team travelled to Saragossa, Spain, where drivers Carlos Sainz, Stéphane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres racked up the kilometres in the PEUGEOT 2008 DKR.
We have programmed a test every month between now and the 2016 Dakar,” says Bruno Famin. “We are confident in the concept of the car and in its potential for future development. The complexity of our task stems from the extremely tight time schedule. We have an ambitious testing and development programme and we expect a great deal to come out of it in order to be in the thick of the fight for victory. At the same time, we are aware that we will be expected to deliver. We have already achieved gains in engine performance and weight savings and we also intend to work on the suspension with a view to increasing the car’s speed over obstacles. At the same time, we have widened the PEUGEOT 2008 DKR’s front and rear track by around 20 centimetres, and extended the wheelbase, also by about 20cm, to improve chassis stability. The latter will only come into effect for the 2016 Dakar.
At the end of August, two PEUGEOT 2008 DKRs have been identified to take part in the 15-day China Grand Rally (August 29-September 12). Details of the route of this event’s third edition will be released in June but the total length is likely to be around 7,000 kilometres. Team Peugeot Total will participate with all-French crews in two cars. One will be for Stéphane PETERHANSEL and Jean-Paul COTTRET who are currently in Shanghai to promote their participation in the rally. The other PEUGEOT 2008 DKR will be in the hands of Cyril DESPRES whose co-driver is now David CASTERA. Cyril is continuing his apprenticeship on four wheels with a programme of competitions in a variety of cars. He has been out on a rally in a 208R2 and has also seen circuit action in the 208 Racing Cup. He is due to drive an RCZ Racing Cup soon, in addition to his testing duties in the PEUGEOT 2008 DKR.
It didn’t take us long to get started with the development programme for 2016 and that was necessary because we have a great deal of work to do to take the car forward. We had a test in Spain where the progress that has been achieved with the engine was evident. At the moment, we’re in Morocco to continue this development groundwork. I can’t wait to try the big chassis evolutions which will help us to feel even more confident in the car. We will need to have all the cards stacked up in our favour in time for the start of the 2016 Dakar, especially as I think the route that was recently revealed by ASO looks quite promising with regard to the challenges it is likely to throw at us.
Just as I usually do, I switched off completely after the 2015 Dakar in order to recuperate. Time passed extremely quickly from the first debriefing meetings to the first tests. So far, I have attended three tests. There’s a promising action plan in place. At the same time, I’ve been involved in promotional work in Geneva, Vesoul [France] and Shanghai to talk about the China Grand Rally [CGR], amongst other topics. I’m delighted to be doing the CGR. It’s important to compete in order to keep your driving at a high level and to stay competitive. Drivers always need the adrenalin rush and sensations you get when you compete. I’m also glad to be returning to China because the terrain there is so varied. I thoroughly enjoyed the Paris-Moscou-Pékin a few years ago when we crossed the country from west to east. There are so many routes to choose from. I don’t know whether we will visit the same tracks but I’m sure it will be a great rally. The CGR is an event that has the makings to grow in stature and perhaps become worthy of the Dakar.
I didn’t know what to expect before I joined Peugeot but the time has just flashed by since my arrival in the team. When I got back from the Dakar, I took time out to think about the event, analyse the different things that happened and make an objective self-appraisal of my performance. I have competed on ice and round circuits and I think I took another step forward when I tested a 208R2 and drove one as the ‘zero’ car on the Rallye des Causses in France. I can now consider myself a driver, as opposed to a rider. Our test with the Peugeot 2008 DKR here in Morocco is back to business for me and I’m very pleased with how the first day went. I felt comfortable in the car; more at one in it. It was also my first time with David [Castera] sitting alongside. Gilles Picard was only available for my Dakar four-wheel debut. David and I are old acquaintances. We’ve known each other for 15 years, notably in the world of bikes.