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Exclusive: up close with Loeb's Peugeot 208 T16

  1. This is the Peugeot 208 T16, the 875bhp nutjob aiming to not just beat but OBLITERATE the Pikes Peak hillclimb record this June. And this week, Top Gear was the first magazine in the world to get up close to the wildest race car of the decade.

    We spent a day at Peugeot Sport’s top secret bunker (just off the N118 on the west side of Paris) watching the T16 transform from a box of expensive components into the fastest hillclimb car on the planet. Click through for the exclusive inside story and watch the car materialise before your very eyes…

  2. The T16’s 875bhp V6 is a 3.2-litre Peugeot endurance block, boosted to stratospheric horsepower courtesy of a modified version of the turbocharger from the team’s 908 diesel Le Mans racer.

  3. And that’s not the only element of the T16 harvested from Peugeot’s Le Mans project. The steering, brakes and much of the rear suspension are also borrowed from the 908, as well as…

  4. …that vast rear wing. Enormous as it is, the T16’s engineers tell us the wing only contributes a modest amount to the car’s insane levels of downforce, the majority of which is generated by its pair of monster underbody diffusers.

  5. Peugeot says the 208 makes more downforce than even the 908 racer, which is an astonishing figure from such a short, squat car.

  6. Such is the advantage of not having to adhere to any regulations. Where most motorsport series are bound by a Bible-thick book of rules, the laws for the ‘Unlimited’ class at Pikes Peak (in which the 208 is competing) run something like this: DO YOUR WORST.

  7. “The blank sheet of paper was certainly a reason to go to Pikes,” Peugeot Sport director Bruno Famin tells Top Gear. “Our calculations showed the fastest car would be four-wheel drive, with a short wheelbase for agility, but wide for stability…”

  8. The T16 measures two metres across, with a wheelbase of just 270cm. It’s a 208 in name and silhouette only: beneath its carbon fibre bodywork lurks a bespoke tubular spaceframe chassis.

  9. It weighs just 875kg, which - as the maths-inclined amongst you will have deduced - equals a power-to-weight ratio of 1bhp per kilogram. Which is roughly the same as a nuclear warhead.

  10. All of which means some truly stratospheric performance figures. Peugeot says the T16 will get from 0-62mph in 1.8 seconds, with 125mph following just three seconds later. With a short-geared six-speed sequential box, it’ll hit its 150mph maximum in seven seconds flat.

  11. A proper piece of machinery, then, and one requiring a proper driver. And they don’t get much more proper than nine-time WRC champ Seb Loeb, given special dispensation from his Citroen rally team to pilot the Peugeot up Pikes.

  12. Loeb wasn’t confirmed to drive the T16 until March, when Peugeot approached Red Bull about potentially collaborating on the Pikes project. Sure, said Red Bull, and do you want to use our driver? “It was a win-win situation,” grins Famin.

  13. Unlike his WRC exploits, Loeb will tackle Pikes without a co-driver - the T16 is a strict single-seater. So how is he learning the course’s 156 turns? “You can learn a lot through videos,” says Famin. “Seb is memorising the route through YouTube.”

  14. But Pikes has changed since Ari’s sideways adventures. Last year, the 12.42-mile course was finally paved for the top. So the T16 won’t be sideways - Peugeot engineers say it’s set up to be ‘neutral’ - but it will be mighty fast.

  15. How fast? Well, the course record stands at 9m41.6s, set by Rhys Millen in a massively modified Hyundai Genesis last year. We ask Famin what he’s hoping for when the T16 tackles Pikes on June 30 this year.

  16. “We want first place and a very good time,” he says. “It will depend on weather conditions, but it is very possible to break the course record.”

  17. By how much? Famin smiles. “Like Le Mans, you prepare for six months for just one race,” he says. “Le Mans, it’s 24 hours, but at Pikes Peak it could be just… eight minutes?”

  18. So there you go. If all goes well on June 30 - and there’s lots that could go wrong at Pikes, from ice to dust storms to, y’know, falling off the side of the hill - Seb Loeb and the T16 could nail a time UNDER NINE MINUTES. You heard it here first, internet…

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