Like many sports car fanatics, I was disappointed when Peugeot cancelled their LMP1 program in 2012. As their sales continued to decrease, it made less sense for the company to spend many millions continuing the sports car program, though their focus on rally continued. In 2014 the French manufacturer built a special car to race (and win) at Pikes Peak, and that kicked off an obsession with proper off-road point-to-point rally raid.
When they decided to kick off a proper Dakar program, Peugeot hired some of the most experienced pilotes in the world; Stephane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz, and bike champion Cyril Despres. With a rear-wheel-drive mid-engine V6 diesel car entry, Peugeot spent a lot of time testing before the event, but it was not enough. All three of their entrants were disappointed in their showing at the first event. Sainz retired after a violent crash on Day 5, Peterhansel finished 11th overall, and Despres’ first time in a car ended no better than 34th. The learning curve was steep.
The below video, produced by team sponsor Red Bull, gives a good look at the behind-the-scenes of what it took for Peugeot to rank among the greatest teams to ever run at Dakar. 2015 was not a great year for Peugeot, but they didn’t give up. 2016 made all the difference, as Peugeot Sport returned with five brand new to take on the best from Toyota and MINI, giving Peterhansel another victory, and three cars within the top ten. In 2017 they came back even stronger with 6 full team rigs, and ran away with the race, sweeping the podium and giving Peterhansel his 13th Dakar victory.
While this video only covers the 2015 season, it was the spark that ignited the current Peugeot off-road revolution. There were ups and downs, mistakes were made and learned from, and they persevered to win it all. This team is absolutely killing the game right now, and they’re considered the favorites to win when the rally kicks off again on New Year’s Day 2018.