The first six months of 2013 were not good for Peugeot. The announcement of the planned closure of its Aulnay factory, the resultant cull of 8,000 jobs, the termination of its prestigious endurance racing programme. In terms of good-news stories for the PR department to share, the cupboard was bare. But, thankfully, off in a small corner of the company, a man called Bruno had a plan.
“We needed a project that was cheap, fast to implement, and would maximise media coverage to show that we were still in motorsport,” explains Peugeot Sport boss Bruno Famin. “Maxime Picat took over as the new MD of the brand in late 2012, and I told him it’d be good to do Pikes Peak.”
Ah, yes. The Peak. For the uninitiated, Pikes Peak is an annual hill climb up a public road that scales the side of a mountain in Colorado. And Peugeot already had history with the race: Ari Vatanen and Robby Unser won back-to-back titles in 1988 and ‘89 in the bewinged Peugeot 405 T16 GR. The feat documented in the famous film Climb Dance, where Vatanen scythed through hairpins, skimmed sheer cliffs and nonchalantly blocked the sun from his eyes while sideways on dirt.