Peugeot is planning to tackle the Dakar Rally next January for the first time in 25 years. It has a good track record in the event; from 1987 to 1990 it took all four outright victories, most of them claimed by Ari Vatenen. The only one he didn’t win was 1988 when his car was stolen from an overnight parc fermé. By the time it was recovered, he had been disqualified from the event and his team-mate Juha Kankkanen won.
Peugeot is hoping to recreate some of that mid-engined 205 and 405 magic with the strikingly aggressive looking 2008 DKR. The school-run 2008 cross-over may not be the obvious starting point for a car in which to take on one of the world’s most gruelling motorsport events… and, actually, Peugeot didn’t start with a production car at all. Instead, the 2008 DKR is a ground-up new car to which some of the road car’s styling cues (lights, grille) have been attached. It’s a two-door coupé with rear-wheel drive – distancing itself from the stock car, but sounding to us like a great car for the rush hour commute.
Being two-wheel drive rather than four, the 2008 is technically classed as a buggy within the Dakar Rally. Class regulations are less onerous than they are for four-wheel drive cars, meaning bigger wheels, longer suspension travel and more power is allowed.
Testing of the 2008 DKR has just begun in France, the drivers from the three crews getting their first drives behind the wheel. They include Stéphane Peterhansel, Cyril Despres (five time Dakar winner on two wheels, competing for the first time in a car) and Carlos Sainz.
Said Peterhansel after his first drive: ‘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.’
There will be plenty of those during the Dakar Rally…