Having just concluded its seventh and final test session in Morocco, Team Peugeot Total – which locked out the top three places on this year’s Dakar Rally in January – is ‘ready and eager’ to tackle next year’s South American classic from January 6–20.
Stephane Peterhansel/Jean Paul Cottret, Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz and Cyril Despres/David Castera will all take the start with a brand-new racing lion: the Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi.
Ahead of them lie 10,000 kilometres of competition on the most difficult endurance odyssey in the world, through Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. The route will take competitors through sand dunes, mountain passes and deserts via 15 stages of stunning scenery and extremes of weather.
While the Peugeot team’s crews remain unchanged for 2018, their cars have undergone some important modifications to maximise performance, and hence the new name: Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi.
The standard architecture, based on the road-going Peugeot 3008 SUV that won the 2017 European Car of the Year award, stays the same: two driven wheels powered by a 3.0-litre twin turbo engine. Most noticeably, the track has been widened by 10 centimetres on each side to improve stability, while improvements have also been made to the suspension, enhancing driveability.
Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport Director explains: “The modifications we have made resulting in the 3008DKR Maxi have proved to be effective up to now, but the Dakar remains a question mark, thanks to the sheer variety of terrain and challenges to overcome, while the recent Rallye du Maroc reminded us once again that our rivals are extremely strong”.
All four crews have tested the new car extensively, completing more than 18,000 kilometres during sessions in Morocco, Portugal and France.
Between them, the Peugeot crews have amassed an unprecedented total of 19 Dakar victories on bikes and cars plus an astonishing 148 stage wins on the event, making this the most successful Dakar line-up of all time.
“We are delighted to retain our ‘dream team’ of crews next Dakar,” added Famin. “It offers us a perfect combination of performance and experience. As this will be the last Dakar for Peugeot, we would like to finish our amazing campaign on a high note. But as I always say, you can’t count on anything in advance. The most difficult thing, after winning, is to do it again.”
Last year’s winner, Peterhansel is thrilled to be facing the test again: “To win the Dakar again last year was a fantastic feeling – I felt so liberated! It’s one of the best memories of my career, after such an intense but respectful fight with Sebastien.
“The problem is that the more you win, the more you want to keep on doing it! This year it will be even more special, with the 40th edition and my 29th participation. Who knows if it’s going to be my last one or not, that is still to be seen.
“For me, the Dakar is really a question of balance, like a ritual that goes on all year. You recharge your batteries, you prepare yourself physically and mentally, the tension builds in September, that gives way to pure excitement in December when you just want to get out there and do some kilometres, then, when you finally arrive, you’re flat-out from the off.
“It’s something really special for me to be able to drive through these amazing landscapes at full speed in such an incredible car. The Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi is simply the best car I’ve ever driven.
“There’s all that technology as well as the beauty of the carbon fibre parts that make it up, matched to reliability, performance, and sheer driving pleasure. The goal for all of us at Team Peugeot Total is to make Peugeot win again and end the programme on a high.”
Nine-time World Rally champion Loeb is hoping to improve on his second place last year: “I’ve been happy with my speed when it comes to adapting to this discipline, but I just need to show a bit more consistency and convert it into overall winning results,” he said.
“We know that we’re right up there, and we’ve proved it over the course of the year at the Dakar, the Silk Way Rally, and also the Rallye du Maroc. Nonetheless, we’ve only got a total of six rally raids behind us, which means that we are always going to be lacking in experience compared to the others.
“The 3008DKR was already a very good car but we’re always looking for more performance, and Peugeot Sport’s engineers have pushed the limits in developing the new Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi.
“It’s a reliable car that can go anywhere and absorb anything: it feels great to drive and gives me a lot of confidence. The car has evolved and myself and Daniel have made progress as well. We’re better in every way.
“The Dakar is by nature unpredictable, so we’re giving ourselves every advantage we possibly can to try and win it.”
Sainz adds: “The expectations and our preparations for the Dakar are the same as always. Since September, we have been 100 per cent focussed on arriving in the best possible physical shape, training for the altitude.
“In recent years, we’ve always shown the speed to be able to win the Dakar; this time we need just a little more luck. I am certainly convinced by the potential, speed and reliability of the new Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi.
“The evolution of the car has been really going well, since we discussed it right the day after the Dakar in January. The Team Peugeot Total’s engineers have done an amazing job and I think the team and the drivers are even happier than last year.
“Everything is ready and prepared, so we’re just looking forward to the start in Peru now. The rules have changed, giving four-wheel drive some advantages this year, which obviously doesn’t make our lives any easier. But I’m confident that our team is very strong.”