TG drives Peugeot 208 T16
Before it heads to a museum, our tame rallyist thrashes Loeb’s Pikes Peak racer
Posted: 14 Feb 2014
The only way to find out what the T16 is really like is to drive it. Which is why it is now sitting in a sparse pit garage at Circuit La Ferté Gaucher, just outside Paris, with the same small team from Pikes Peak fussing gently around it. TG has it exclusively for the day, just before it gets mothballed and put in a museum. Problem is, we need a driver.
Not anyone can get into a four-wheeled bomb like this and test it to the limit. Luckily, we knew someone who could: Top Gear's favourite rallyist, Kris Meeke. He enters the garage suited and booted, and immediately has a quick scan of the car. Round and round, shaking his head constantly as he feels the tyre compound, eyes up the aerodynamics and takes in the finer details. "This. Is. Insane," he spurts in his Northern Irish accent. "You can't imagine what a car like this is going to feel like, I'm going to have to rely on my instincts."
At exactly 9.30am, the near-deafening sound of an engine bred from an anarchical, no-rules policy reverberates off the garage's cold, breeze-block walls. The car tentatively rolls out of the garage with Peugeot's development driver Grégory Guilvert at the wheel. It's in the configuration for testing at Mont Ventoux - subtly different from the Pikes Peak set-up, as we're at a much lower altitude, so the turbo is in a different state of tune and we don't have the trick post-combustion system. The ground is also wet, so grooved tyres sit at all four corners - something they didn't need in the States. But, even with a damp track, it's just a case of a quick slalom to get some heat in the tyres then Grégory engages full warhead mode. The combination of crisp, relentless revs from the engine, punctuated by instant gearchanges, plus the sheer rate that the Pug gets from one part of the track to another, requires a complete recalibration of the senses. Kris has a hungry look in his eye. Soon enough, it's his turn.