JAN 30th 2015

Video: 'Flat‑out and Fearless' – Ari Vatanen at Pikes Peak

Peugeot is a peculiar company when it comes to motorsport. Every now and again it seems to get the irresistible urge to compete, develops an outstanding machine, turns up, almost always wins and then, just when it seems poised for a prolonged spell of dominance… it packs away all its wonderful toys and goes back to producing predominantly small and mid-sized family cars for a while. Regardless, it seems right that the French firm helps us to celebrate the 2015 Festival of Speed theme of ‘Flat-out and Fearless: Racing on the Edge.’

Having turned up on the Group B rallying scene and won the championship in both 1985 and ’86, it went on to win the Dakar rally four times on the bounce between 1987 and ’90 with machinery developed from the Group B days. It is a relative of the Dakar programme – the 405 T16 – that we see here, being flung up the notorious Pikes Peak course in 1988.

Director Jean Louis Mourney made this film, called ‘Climb Dance’, of Ari Vatanen successfully eclipsing the record time which had been set the previous year by an Audi Quattro. In fact, nobody would beat Vatanen’s time until 1994. This is just an epic piece of beautifully shot, on-the-limit driving.

We don’t know for certain how much power the car had, but popular estimates suggest between 500 and 600bhp was on tap. But, being a hillclimb the car it ran very short gearing – the upshot being that in the hands of Vatanen the engine is always screaming away ‘on the cam’ at full boost. 

As the climb continues, the scenery changes dramatically. At a certain altitude we stop seeing trees around the course, and instead we can see the enormous drops to the side. But still Vatanen presses on with not so much as a flinch. For fun, stop the clip at 3:31 and observe the position of the Pug’s outside rear wheel and the drop inches behind it …

Okay, ‘racing’ it may not strictly be, but it more than makes up for it in the ‘fast’, ‘fearless’ and especially ‘on the edge’ departments!

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