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Motoring

1-2-3 glory for Peugeot on Dakar Rally

Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena demonstrated impressive progress on only their second Dakar Rally outing. In addition to emerging as the fastest crew of the fortnight, they combined shrewd pace management with strong navigational skills

The brand new Peugeot 3008DKRs of Peterhansel/Cottret, Loeb/Elena and Despres/Castera completed the 2017 Dakar Rally’s 9,000-kilometre run through Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina on the top three steps of the final podium in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The landmark one-two-three result takes Peugeot’s score on the famous cross-country rally to six outright victories and is ideally timed to coincide with the launch of the new Peugeot 3008 SUV’s career across the world.

Thirty years after its initial Dakar Rally success in 1987, Peugeot provided another demonstration of its know-how with an assertive one-two-three finish on this year’s event in South America. Peterhansel and Cottret, the most successful crew in the event’s history, steered their Peugeot 3008DKR over this year’s challenging route which included high-altitude running, tougher navigation and appalling weather.

The 2017 rally turned out to be a close, drama-packed affair with numerous leader changes and exceptionally small gaps at the order’s sharp end from start to finish.

They say 13 is unlucky for some, but Stephane Peterhansel is unlikely to subscribe to that theory now that he has beaten his own record and taken his personal tally of Dakar Rally wins to 13 in total (six on two wheels, seven on four wheels). Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret produced a near-perfect run to clock up their seventh success together, allowing the latter to register a new record for co-driver victories.

Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena demonstrated impressive progress on only their second Dakar Rally outing. In addition to emerging as the fastest crew of the fortnight, they combined shrewd pace management with strong navigational skills. Their chances of victory took a blow on Day 4, however, when an engine issue cost them 26 minutes, proving cruelly decisive in the final reckoning. The Franco-Monegasque pair ended up second overall for the second year running and posted the highest number of fastest stage times.

After coming seventh overall in 2016, Cyril Despres and David Castera shared the Dakar Rally’s podium celebrations for the first time on four wheels after previously securing five and three bike victories respectively. The crew also recorded their first fastest time in the car category and even appeared at the top of the provisional leader board on the evening of Day 4 after one of the 2017 event’s most selective stages, hinting that there’s still plenty more to come from the French pair.

After providing further evidence of their speed, Sainz and Cruz were in the process of easing into the provisional lead when they were eliminated. Damage sustained in a series of rolls on Stage 4 proved too much for the mechanics to repair within the authorised time and the Spaniards were forced to hand in their timecard at the bivouac in Tupiza.

The two-wheel drive 3008DKR trounced its all-wheel drive opposition to reveal the value of the technical configuration chosen by Team Peugeot Total. In spite of unfavourable changes to the regulations (bigger air restrictor), work on the car’s engine and suspension in recent months paid big dividends. At the same time, the switch to a body shape derived from that of the Peugeot 3008 SUV permitted an aerodynamic package which favoured high top speeds.

Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport Director and Team Manager, Peugeot Total said at the finish: “After such an emphatic win today, it’s obviously been a positive event for us. We got three cars onto the podium and that’s an accomplishment Peugeot and everyone at Peugeot Sport can be proud of. The 3008DKR won the Dakar at first attempt, so there’s every reason to be pleased with the jobs performed by everyone in the team, from the mechanics to the crews.

“We functioned as a single unit and team spirit prevailed, not only on the rally but also during the design, preparation and servicing of the cars. The drivers and co-drivers never hesitated to help each other out, to an even greater extent than last year. Everybody feared this year’s Dakar – justifiably in my opinion. This tension led the members of the team to work even more closely together and the reward is a fantastic overall team result.

“As far as the car is concerned, the biggest step forward was its reliability. We didn’t have any mechanical issues, with the exception of a small problem which, it can be said, deprived Loeb an Elena of the win. All our work upstream of the event paid off in the form of enhanced performance. I know it can bring added stress but, for me, the thought of issuing team orders was inconceivable. As a result, everyone was able to savour the intensity of the fight to the end, including with the crews themselves!”

Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret, the most successful crew in the event’s history, steered their Peugeot 3008DKR over this year’s challenging route
Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret, the most successful crew in the event’s history, steered their Peugeot 3008DKR over this year’s challenging route

Peterhansel was thrilled with his 13th victory: “This is a superb win for Peugeot and I was delighted to have such an exceptional car. I was also glad that Bruno Famin didn’t issue any team orders. It was an open fight all the way to the finish. We faced stiff competition, not only from our own team-mates, with three other strong drivers in the squad, but also from the other teams.

“It didn’t take long for an initial hierarchy to emerge, though, and soon there were just four, then two drivers challenging for the victory. My duel with Sébastien was intense and also quite stressful. At the same time, we had tremendous fun driving. It was never easy because Sebastien is a proven champion and extremely fast, and he has plenty of experience of managing from in front, so it was never straightforward for us, as can be seen by the small gap that separated us at the finish.”

Loeb was also pleased with the result: “It was a good event for us and, even though we ended up second, we were involved in the thick of the fight for first place from start to finish. After the small engine problem we suffered early on, we never stopped pushing. It was very exciting because we were flat out all the time, especially on the anti-penultimate and penultimate stages.

“It was a tremendous rally. It’s a shame our scrap ended when I punctured. Overall, we had great fun and we ended up second on what turned out to be a highly complex event, while Peugeot ended up first, second and third. That’s an extraordinary team result!”


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