The nine greatest Peugeot race & rally cars of all time
The 406 failed to make it big in BTCC, however it’s time spent in the Super Tourenwagen Cup was nothing short of impressive. Laurent Aiello was the man of the hour, placing third in the 1996 season and winning the 1997 Championship outright.
Built to exacting specifications for the purpose of winning the World Rally Championship from 1999, Marcus Gronholm’s fierce 206 WRC was a worthy successor to the legendary 205 before it. Initially campaigned with limited success in 1999, Marcus failed to complete a rally behind the wheel, whilst experienced team mate Gilles Panizzi managed to grab the 206s sole podium finish for the year in Italy. History would see the year 2000 to be a completely different story – Gronholm would steer the two-liter, four-cylinder twin cam turbo 206 to podium finishes in seven of the 11 rallies that he completed, including four outright wins. Marcus took the Driver’s Championship for the year, and Peugeot the Constructor’s – with the 206 achieving a whopping 13 podium finishes from 14 rallies. The 206 steered Peugeot to consecutive Manufacturer’s championship in 2001 and 2002, with the latter including a follow-up victory for Gronholm.
Did you know that Peugeot won the Indianapolis 500 in 1916? That’s right, 98 years ago the French brand took to the banks of Indy and crossed the line first, thanks to this very machine and Italian-born British driver Dario Resta. It gets better too, Peugeot actually won the Indy 500 in 1913 too, and the 1916 event goes on record as being the only ‘Indy 500’ to actually be run over less than 500 miles – limited to just 300 miles in length because organizers felt that it might make the race more exciting to spectators. What a story!
It’s got 875 horsepower, weighs 875kg and was built to go up a little hill called Pikes Peak as fast as humanly possible. Although here at Motorsport Retro we still struggle with the concept of a paved surface at Pikes Peak, there’s no denying the quality of the hardware which has been developed to tackle it. The 2013 208 T16 was built to be driven by WRC Champion Sebastien Loeb – capable of hitting 60mph in just 1.8 seconds, it smashed the previous “Unlimited Class” record by more than 1 minute and 30 seconds. It might be the youngest car to make this list, but this is one machine that has certainly earned its place.
Juha Kankkunen grasped a lucky break in 1986 when the championship winning Peugeot team were looking for a driver to fill the spot of rally legend Ari Vatanen, who had been seriously injured in an accident during the previous season. The car he would drive would be the updated 1986 T16/E2, a machine which has since become an icon of the dearly missed days of Group B Rally. 26 year-old Juha won a WRC event for the first time in 1985, and behind the wheel of the 205 T16 was a force to be reckoned with – winning three rounds during the 1986 WRC season, and placing on the podium in an additional three. Peugeot took the manufacturer’s championship, and the rest is history.
2009 HDi 208 FAP
Peugeot returned to conquer Le Mans in 2007 with this turbo-diesel monster. It took the team until 2009 to win the big race itself, but between the cars debut in 2007 and retirement in 2010, it won 19 races from 28 starts – that’s a near 70% kill rate. The 1200Nm 5.5 litre V12 engine was constructed with a 100 degree angle, allowing more of the block and heads to be mounted closer to the ground, lowering the center of gravity.
The Peugeot 905 spent the majority of it’s time competing in the World Sportscar Championship season, however it is for its exploits at the 1992 and 1993 24 Hours of Le Mans that it is best remembered. The aggressive looking 905 went head-to-head with the works Toyota team under the 3.5L regulations of the time, winning first and third place in 1992, and first, second and third place in 1993! Peugeot were so content with their efforts that with the onset of 1993 and the news that the World Sportscar Championship as it was known would no longer exist, they opted to depart from the sport as dominant victors and focus upon supplying engines for Formula 1 – but not before taking first, second and third at Le Mans again for one last time with an updated ‘Evo’ model of the 905.
With the demise of Group B Rally, Peugeot turned it’s attention to Rally Raid – the crowning event being the infamous Paris Dakar, one of the toughest racing events on the planet. Peugeot came prepared, using everything they’re learned whilst rallying earlier in the 1980s to develop their existing Group B 205 T16 into a long distance, off road war machine. The 205 was developed for the tight circuits of the world rally circuit, and in order to adapt it to the open roads and long jumps of Rally Raid they extended the wheel base considerably. The result was that the chassis was now entirely too long to fit the 205 bodyshell, so a 405 coupe body was developed using the shell from a road-going 405, which was never actually sold as a two-door hardtop. The result was the 405 T16 Grand Raid, which used a larger 1.9L turbocharged version of the Group B engine and weighed just 880kg before fuel. It was famously stolen and found during the course of the 1988 event, before winning in 1989 with Ari Vatanen behind the wheel. It won again in 1990 with Vatanen, and afterwards Peugeot shifted their attention to Le Mans. The 405 T6 GR remains a legend.
Of course Peugeot’s off-road interests in the late 1980s wasn’t limited to Paris Dakar, in fact it was the annual Pikes Peak rally upon which the company placed the most importance. The car was a 600hp, 4-wheel steer 405 with massive ground effects. Ari Vatanen was the star of the show, laying down a record with such ferocity in 1988 that it would not be beaten with all the technology in the world until six years later. Peugeot backed up the win in 1989 with an unbelievable performance by Robby Unser, who chased down team-mate Vatanen before taking the win when Ari momentarily lost control and had a collision. In the same year, the car became the star of the now legendary film “Climb Dance”, which remains a favorite to this day amongst anyone gear-heads everywhere.
During a later interview, Ari Vatanen spoke of the 405 T16 Pikes Peak: “Amongst the jewelry of competition cars, this one was a diamond. Like unique jewelry is only worn on rare occasions, the Pikes Peak car was only used to climb the hill once a year.”