Team Peugeot-Total's official entry into the 2015 Dakar rally, the Peugeo 2008 DKR, is currently undergoing testing at the Château Lastours test center in France in preparation for the competition. Three drivers will each take turns in trying out the 2008 DKR against rocky terrain before heading to South America where the race will take place next year.
First up to test the car out was Stephane Peterhansel, a French Dakar rally veteran that won the event a total of 6 times on a motorbike (for Yamaha) and 5 times aboard a car (3 for Mitsubishi, 2 for Mini).
“I’ve never previously driven a car with so much suspension travel. The first big surprise is the manner in which the Peugeot 2008 DKR soaks up potholes and compressions. Whenever you fear an impending impact, the suspension and large-diameter wheels absorb it. That is a reassuring feeling, which allows you to pass over potholes at 120kph or 130kph rather than just 80kph. I’ll need to adapt my driving style accordingly,” said Peterhansel.
Peterhansel also added that since the 2008 DKR is a RWD car, it is livelier and has to be driven with plenty of attention. For the gearbox and engine, he found it good but still quite a long way from finding the optimal setting. In the end, he stated that the car has a lot of potential and find the initial drive excellent.
Next to test out the car was Cyril Depres, a former Dakar motorcyclist that won the title 5 times. He first rode shotgun with Peterhansel to get his grips on the 2008 DKR. Depres was at first anxious yet at the same time excited to test for the first time a rally car. After completing a few kilometers and returning to base, Depres was amazed by the test drive.
“That was crazy! In every possible area, it’s far better than I had ever imagined it would be! And what’s more, I’m still a long way from pushing flat-out and exploring its full potential,” Depres said.
Depres admitted to the team engineers though that he lost concentration during testing and missed a gear, slightly over-revving the engine. Two-time Dakar rally winner Gilles Picard and former motorcyclist Luc Alphard, found Depres' debut in driving a four-wheeled rally car impressive, adding that he had a neat driving style.
The last person to test the car was former WRC veteran Carlos Sainz, who also won 1st place during the 2010 Dakar. He found out some “teething problems” on the car as he drove it during testing and wanted to validate on modifications made to the chassis and cooling system.
The testing of the rally car will continue along the coming months right up until the start of the race in South America. The first stage of the 2015 Dakar will take place on January 4, 2015 and will run through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.