With a little under three weeks to go, Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak driver Sébastien Loeb gained his first taste of the Colorado mountain last weekend.
The Race Director invited drivers to take extra care, since water from melting roadside snow had frozen overnight, but despite the unpredictable conditions Loeb enjoyed the experience – “I feel very confident with the car,” confirmed Loeb.
“That’s a reassuring start, if only because of the speeds we get up to here. We are already getting close to the limit in many places. All we need to do now is make some detail changes and we will be ready for the Big Day!”
It’s the team’s first week of practice, which continues on Friday (14th June, at 5:30am – 8:30am local time) and then on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th.
The first step was to put the engine through its paces on a test bench in Colorado Springs to see how it performed at altitude. That was followed by a shakedown run with the car at the town’s nearby ‘Speedway’, signing off changes that have been made since the car’s final test run at Mont Ventoux in France.
Meanwhile, Loeb took time to familiarise himself with the hill climb’s 156 turns, assisted by his WRC co-driver, Daniel Elena.
SEE ALSO: Showdown at Colorado Springs: The 2013 Pikes Peak Unlimited contenders.
The nine-time world rally champion then familiarised himself with nine of its climbs, to associate each corner with his precise mental ‘pace note’ of the course. Once ready, it was time to give the 208 T16 Pikes Peak its first taste of the famous hill climb, with Saturday’s run devoted to the first part of the course, and Sunday’s to the higher section.
Peugeot Sport’s Director Bruno Famin confirmed they’d made hardly any changes to the car’s set-up (after the first practice run), which is hardly surprising given that they set the fastest times of the day on each run. That said, the other (more experienced) competitors are still familiarising themselves with their own new cars, so the competition is bound to increase during next weekend’s final practice.
Loeb set a time of 3:29.24 for the lower half of the course and 3:42.10 for the upper section. This compares with 3:55.03 and 4:26.98 for Rhys Millen who was experiencing traction difficulties in the cold conditions. These testing times do not directly correspond to the full course length on race day, as the full race day course will be longer than both sections combined.
Famin was happy with the progress made, “Our ‘beast’ seems to suit Sébastien… the 208 T16 Pikes Peak is a well-sorted car and our busy programme in the past four months seems to have taken us in the right direction. We will now need to continue in the same vein.”
So far so good, but there are (at least) eight very strong competitors working hard to deny the Frenchman his rookie success.