We are continuing to follow our development programme which began straight after the 2016 Dakar. We have conducted five tests already this year, in Spain and Morocco, as well as dress-rehearsal competitive outings on events like Spain’s Baja Aragón and the recent Rallye du Maroc. We have also had to adapt to regulation changes such as the smaller air intake restrictor diameter for two wheel-drive diesel-powered vehicles.
In addition to the technical side, we are beginning to work on the logistical aspects, which include the movements of our support trucks and equipment. At the same time, our crews have been concentrating on honing their physical fitness, including working out at altitude. Our intention is to leave absolutely no stone unturned. We know that the 2017 Dakar promises to be a punishing event, not least because of the numerous stages to be tackled at extremely high altitudes plus the likely navigational difficulties, from those inherent in the route itself to the concealed way points and restricted GPS capability.
Between now and the moment when the cars leave for South America, we have two further test sessions planned, the first of which will be at Erfoud in Morocco between October 27 and November 4, with all four crews. The objective is to cover as many kilometres as possible with the cars in full Dakar trim. The second test will be much shorter and, like last year, will take place in high-altitude conditions in Chile at the beginning of December. Right now, our workshops at Vélizy are busy hives of activity to ensure that the four Peugeot 3008 DKRs are all ready in time. We are also eagerly awaiting the ASO press conference on November 23 to discover precise details of the route and learn more about our opposition.
First of all, we must acknowledge that the level of competition this year is higher than ever. The WRX is developing very quickly and pre-season technical issues left us on the back foot when the action got underway in April. Notwithstanding the clear performance gains we have achieved over the course of the campaign, we haven’t quite been able to catch up. Team Peugeot Hansen has tallied 10 podium finishes so far, including two victories, but we are still 17 points short of EKS Audi heading into the final round in Argentina on November 26-27. Retaining our Teams’ title consequently promises to be tough. That said, we will give it our all, just as we always do. There is no reason why we can’t finish the year with a flourish to add to the success we have already enjoyed in 2016, including young Kevin Hansen’s successful campaign in the European Rallycross Championship success which saw him score four wins from five rounds with the Peugeot Hansen Academy. When he notched the first of those victories, he didn’t even have a licence to drive on the road! Less surprising but no less praiseworthy has been Sébastien Loeb’s rapid acclimatisation to the discipline, which is never easy – particularly as nearly all the circuits on this year’s calendar were new to him. His maiden victory in Latvia was thoroughly well-deserved and he is the best-placed Peugeot driver in the provisional standings heading into the final round.
Order books will open officially after next weekend, when the car – which is continuing to follow an intensive testing programme – will participate in the TCR Benelux meeting at Mettet, Belgium, in the hands of the 2015 RCZ Racing Cup Champion Aurélien Comte. The 308 Racing Cup was designed to fit the programmes of a broad variety of racing series with strong potential for growth, such as the TCR, ETCC, TCES [Touring Car Endurance Series], Germany’s VLN, the CER in Spain, the CITE in Italy and the 24H Series – without forgetting, of course, France’s Coupe de Marque.
Stay tuned this Friday [October 28] to discover a number of surprises concerning the immediate future of the 308 Racing Cup!