When people talk about Peugeot these days, most will think of the 208s or the SUVs that they mostly make now; not so much about performance or racing. So when Peugeot announced that they will be returning to the World Endurance Championship (WEC) in 2022, many people were left bewildered at that notion.
Little do they know though, Peugeot actually has a very illustrious racing history dating all the way back to 1895! We thought we’d look back at some of Peugeot’s most successful racing cars, as a precursor to what the French brand might bring to the table in the 2021/22 season.
Group B rally, introduced in 1982, was often hailed as the “golden age of rally”. If so, the golden car of the golden age would be the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 (T16).
Although looking like the 205, the rally car actually barely has anything to do with the street-legal supermini. Underneath the 205 camouflage is a spaceframe chassis, while a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine mounted in the middle sends power to a permanent four-wheel drive set up.
The 205 T16 was introduced in 1984, and went on to win three times in the first year. The improved 205 T16 Evolution 2 reportedly made upwards of 600 hp, which propelled the little Peugeot to a total of 16 victories – making it the most successful Group B car of all time.
The 205 T16 Evo 2 also went on to win the Paris Dakar twice, and only retired when the 405 T16 (which was really just a rebodied 205 T16) was introduced for Dakar in 1989.
Pikes Peak Hill Climb
Pikes Peak is frequently called the Devil’s Playground due to the challenging 156 turns, many of which would send you off a cliff with a single mistake. Coincidentally, the famed hill climb is also one of Peugeot’s favourite playground.
The 405 T16 won the Pikes Peak hill climb twice in 1988 and 1989, but it was the 2013 attempt that really cemented the French brand as an immortal figure at the course. Piloted by nine-times WRC Champion Sebastian Loeb, the 208 T16 Pikes Peak shattered the course record with a time of 8 minutes 13.9 seconds.
A 3.2-litre V6 engine provides motivation to the tune of 887 hp. Paired with a car that weighs only 875 kg, 0 to 100 km/h takes just 1.8 seconds, and the T16 reached 240 km/h in just seven seconds.
The lap record set by the 208 T16, which bettered the previous by more than 1:30 minutes, held on for five years. It was until 2018 that the record was beaten, by the Volkswagen ID.R electric car by about 17 seconds.
Peugeot’s efforts in Le Mans actually started even before the 24-hour race format was established in 1912. But it was only in 1992 when Peugeot finally claimed its first 24 hours of Le Mans victory, with the glorious 905 howling to an unmistakable V10 tune.
The Peugeot 905s began racing in Le Mans in 1991, and were actually the fastest cars that year. However, mechanical reliability plagued the cars within the first six hours, giving the win to the Mazda 787B.
In 1992, Peugeot came back with a revised 905B featuring a reworked and more powerful engine, winning them five out of six World Sportscar Championship races, including Le Mans. The 905B also raced in the 1993 24 Heures Du Mans with a three-car effort, bagging them the historic 1-2-3 finish.
Peugeot returned to prototype racing in 2007 with the 908 HDi FAP, powered by a 5.5-litre twin-turbo V12 engine. However, they struggled to keep up the pace with main rival Audi, finishing second behind their German rivals.
In the 2009 24-hour of Le Mans, the stars aligned. Fielding four cars, Peugeot finally managed to clinch victory in style with a 1-2 finish – 16 years after their last win in the endurance race.
Looking back at Peugeot’s successful racing history, it’s no wonder that racing fans are excited by the announcement of their return to WEC. Will Peugeot be as successful as they were before? Only time will tell.
But one thing we do know is that it’ll make for brilliant racing with more manufacturers joining the race.