JAN 18th 2016

Five Things We Learned This Weekend – Peterhansel Rules Supreme

Stephane Peterhansel (FRA) of Team Peugeot-Total races during stage 12 of Rally Dakar 2016 from San Juan to Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina on January 15th, 2016 // Eric Vargiolu / DPPI / Red Bull Content Pool // P-20160116-00023 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

Peterhansel does the dozen on the Dakar

Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel has added to his extraordinary strike rate in the world’s most gruelling motorsport event, the Dakar Rally, with his 12th victory. Driving the works Peugeot 2008 DKR alongside long-time co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret, Peterhansel won the South American event – it moved out of Africa for 2009 after security issues led to its cancellation in ’08 – by more than half an hour thanks to late problems befalling his double World Rally Champion team-mate Carlos Sainz.

Peterhansel’s sixth win on four wheels, adding to his victories in 2004, 2005 and 2007 for Mitsubishi and 2012 and 2013 for Mini, has now matched his tally on two wheels. Riding for Yamaha, he made the 1990s pretty much his own, winning six Dakars on the YZE750s and 850s in 1991-’93, 1995, ’97 and ’98.

Peugeot’s stunning 2008 DKRs ran at the front for the entire event, the third car of nine-time WRC king Sébastien Loeb leading for most of the first week until he rolled and fell down the order. Thereafter it was Sainz who looked like he’d take his second Dakar win. That was until a spacer between the engine and gearbox failed mid-way through the second and final week, ending the Spaniard’s impressive run.

Peterhansel then carried the Peugeot baton across the line to give the marque its fourth win – the first since the great Ari Vatanen in 1990. It seems there’s no stopping 50-year-old Super Stéphane, and oh how we’d love to see him parading the 2008 DKR at the Festival of Speed

Refuelling return ignites F1 debate

Having been vetoed by the competing teams in the discussions about how to improve the Formula 1 show, the return of refuelling appears to have found itself back on the agenda for consideration when motorsport’s Premier League introduces changes for 2017.

The teams, who cited cost implications and a lack of evidence that mid-race refuelling improves the racing, unanimously voted against its return during the Canadian GP in June last year, although a number of drivers have expressed a desire to see it back in F1.

Jean Todt, president of the sport’s governing body, the FIA, has admitted that refuelling, which was banned at the end of the 2009 season, is now back on the list of things that might make it into the technical regulations for what a lot of fans hope will be a new-look F1 next year.

Todt claims that the cost of taking all the kit required for refuelling is a drop in the ocean for the multi-million-pound world of F1, but that he, like the teams, has his doubts that it will help improve the show. Evidence suggests that overtaking was better in 2010 than the previous season. And that’s what counts.

In true F1-style, it would appear getting agreement among rule makers, promoters, competing drivers and teams on these fundamental issues is again proving rather taxing.

What seems much more important to fans is sorting out the aerodynamic issue that has for so long made it very difficult to follow a car in front, thanks to the over-complicated and much-maligned front wings. The fundamental behaviour of cars on track is a bigger deal than the gimmicks employed to try to spice up the show, so I say: stick the refuelling rigs and those ridiculous front wings in the bin.

Kubica set for WRC exit

Robert Kubica has hinted that the Monte Carlo Rally, this week’s WRC opener, could be his last rally.

The Pole, who was injured during the Ronde di Andorra Rally at the beginning of 2011, made the full-time switch to rallying because the injuries he received to his right arm in the Italian national event prevented a return to Formula 1.

Now, however, the 31-year-old faces budget issues that may preclude him continuing beyond the Monte in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC run by the Italian BRC team.

Kubica has been a big draw for the WRC, joining in 2013 with a Citroen DS3, and taking a best result of fifth – in Germany that year – in his three seasons to date. It would be a shame if he wasn’t able to find the money to continue, although a return to circuit racing would be a likely – and welcome – result of his quitting rallying.

F1 fans will remember his breakthrough Grand Prix win for BMW-Sauber in the 2008 Canadian GP, one year after a massive accident at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve from which he was lucky to escape. Although a return to F1, where he has unfinished business, is not going to happen, the sight of Kubica in an LMP1 prototype in the World Endurance Championship would be one to relish. Now there’s an idea…

Wolff dares to be different

Just a few months after retiring from driving, lady racer Susie Wolff has put all her energy into a new scheme to encourage more women to get involved in motorsport.

The 33-year-old Scot competed in junior single-seaters until joining the Mercedes DTM squad in 2006, a series in which she raced for seven years. Edging closer to achieving her dream of racing in Formula 1, she landed a test-driver role with the Williams team in 2013, performing on four occasions over the next three years during practice at Grand Prix weekends.

Now, though, having decided her F1 race-seat dreams are over, she has teamed up with the MSA, British motorsport’s governing body, to launch Dare To Be Different, whose primary mission will be to encourage girls to break into racing, whether it be in or out of the cockpit.

Launching the initiative at last weekend’s Autosport International show in Birmingham, she explained the thinking behind it.

‘I wanted to give something back after hanging up my helmet,’ she said. ‘There are not enough women in motorsport and one of the reasons for that is that there are so few role models. I want to change that. If you have 1,000 little boys making their first step in karting, but only 10 little girls, the chances of a girl making it all the way are very slim.

‘We need more girls involved and Dare To Be Different will have five key events in 2016 to help encourage girls to get involved,’ Wolff added. ‘I have the full support of the fantastic women already at a high level in F1, such as my old boss at Williams, Claire Williams, as well as the MSA.’

Jost Capito, Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) WRC Rally Argentina 2014

VW WRC chief heads to McLaren

The dominant Volkswagen World Rally team, which has done the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ double for the past three years, will soon have to face life in the WRC without the man who has helped steer the team to unprecedented success following news that team boss Jost Capito has joined the beleaguered McLaren Formula 1 team.

Capito has been appointed Chief Executive Officer of McLaren Racing and will take up the role once VW has found his replacement. The 57-year-old replaces Jonathan Neale, who in turn will perform a wider-ranging role in the McLaren Technology Group.

German Capito has previously worked in senior positions for BMW, Ford and Porsche, as well as the Sauber F1 squad, and is expected to bring what VW has described as ‘transparent and far-sighted leadership’ to McLaren as it aims to return to competitiveness with Honda after a disastrous maiden season.

Anything that helps this great British racing institution get back to the front is fine by us – particularly if Goodwood favourite Jenson Button, who’ll race for McLaren for a seventh straight season in 2016, comes to the Festival of Speed in June on the back of a successful first eight Grands Prix of the year.

Images courtesy of Red Bull and Volkswagen

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