When the French introduce a new rally car, the competition stands up and pays notice. Meet the latest.
Forget Subaru, forget Ford and forget Mini - nobody but nobody does rally like the French. Whether it's Citroen and Sebastian Loeb that have dominated the World Rally Championship for over a decade, Renault's Dacia brand that has trounced the competition in the Andros Trophy of ice racing with Alain Prost, or Peugeot winning the Intercontinental Rally Challenge with the 207 S2000 three years running, the French have got as much rallying in their blood as they do cabernet sauvignon.
Now Peugeot is replacing the 207 S2000 with the new 208 R5, the first car being developed under the FIA's new R5 regulations. The French automaker lifted the veil on the new customer rally machine at the Paris Motor Show a few months ago, but has just now started testing it, putting the 207 into retirement after an astounding 23 IRC rally victories.
Power comes from a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine channeling 280 horsepower to all four wheels through a five-speed sequential gearbox and two locking differentials. With the first chassis delivered to the Peugeot Sport facility in Velizy, France, assembly began in early November with the first test session having just been completed on a gravel stage in Riboux over the course of four grueling days. Rally legend Ari Vatanen, who won the World Rally Championship in 1981 before being elected to the European parliament and running for FIA president, launches the 208 R5 in this video clip highlighting Peugeot's history in the sport.