Sebastien Loeb shattered the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb record on Sunday with a breath-taking time of 8mins 13.878secs in his Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak.
The nine-time World Rally champion negotiated the 12.42 miles and 156 corners of the mountain at an average speed of 87.471mph.
Loeb's time blitzed the previous best of 9mins 46.164secs, set by Rhys Millen last year, with the former record holder having to settle for second this time in his all-new Hyundai RMR PM580-T - 49 seconds adrift.
“For me, this was the race of the year,” said Loeb, who was competing at the event for the very first time. “At the beginning of my run there was a bit of pressure for sure because I knew there was so much work and investment from Peugeot and all the partners. Now, after all the practice, it was just down to me and I had to perform.”
Loeb started first of the Unlimited class cars, unleashing his 875-horsepower car onto the mountain after all the motorcycle competitors had passed through. However there were a number of delays before he started, which meant that the team began to worry about bad weather - a common feature of Pikes Peak at high altitude: “When I was on the start line waiting to go, I could actually see the clouds closing in at the top of the mountain,” said Loeb. “I remember thinking that if we didn't get going soon, it would be really difficult.”
As it was, Loeb blasted his 208 T16 through the clouds in a time that was even quicker than Peugeot Sport's computer had thought was possible. The ideal theoretical time - calculated using data from Loeb's practice runs up the Colorado mountain - was 8mins 15secs.
“I'm really happy as that was a very good run in the end,” said Loeb. “I really didn't expect anything better than 8m15s, so to do 8m13s was fantastic. Before the start I didn't really know if I should push absolutely to the maximum or if I should just push to a comfortable pace, in order to make sure of the victory. In the end, I decided to push to the limit.”
Despite his flat-out approach, the Frenchman didn't report any major moments: “It was good, all under control from start to finish,” he added. “Apart from the potential of the weather turning bad, we didn't have any worrying moments.”
The scenes of success at Peugeot were reminiscent of 1988, when former World Rally champion Ari Vatanen broke the Pikes Peak record for the French manufacturer exactly 25 years ago, with the Peugeot 405 T16 Pikes Peak.