Last month Peugeot announced plans to win this year’s unlimited class at the Colorado-based event with a one-off 208 T16 to be driven by the nine-time World Rally Champion.
As the first pictures of the new car were made public [above] Loeb explained why he had chosen to get involved in the attempt.
“My career has been marked by many challenges, and its new challenges that motivate me,” he said.
"Pikes Peak is a combination of things but above all it’s a great sporting challenge so it’s a very nice project to be involved with. I admit that I had this race in a corner of my mind for some time - it was on my list of ‘exotic’ things to do.”
"At a different level, Pikes Peak reminds me of my experience at the X-Games last year with the Citroën DS3 XL. It was a new type of racing - even though I knew the basic format. I faced new opponents and all this made it refreshing."
To be run on 30 June, the 20km all-asphalt hillclimb features 156 corners and a route that snakes up from an altitude of 2,800 metres to the 4,300 metres summit of Pikes Peak.
Featuring carbon bodywork and parts robbed from Peugeot’s Le Mans 24 Hours-winning 908, the aggressive-looking 208 T16 was another draw for Loeb, who is bowing out of full time WRC competition this year.
“The ‘unlimited’ category means you can drive unique cars – and that too was appealing,” he said. “Almost everything is allowed: two or four-wheel drive, turbo or not, prototype, silhouette, hybrids and so on. I like the diversity, as well as the idea of taking the wheel of an unusual car, or at least a car whose philosophy is different from what I know.”
With two Pikes Peak wins and nine WRC drivers’ titles between them, the Peugeot / Loeb combination is one of the favourites to win. But having never driven Pikes Peak before, and with only limited options to test on location, Loeb is not underestimating the challenge.
Official test sessions enable competitors to familiarise themselves with the course, but only one section at a time. The first opportunity Loeb will get to tackle the route in one go is when he does it for real on the day.
"I know I'm expected to do well. People expect me to shine at Pikes Peak, and my goal is always the victory. It is nevertheless a difficult race, whose preparation is special: in Colorado, we will encounter conditions that cannot be found anywhere else. Like the Le Mans Endurance, it seems difficult to make real simulations,” he said.