Lessons learned for Peugeot after tough return to Dakar

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Peugeot finally returned to the Dakar Rally this year after a 25-year absence, but it turned out to be something that one could charitably call “character-building.”

The Lions came back with Stephane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz, and Cyril Despres, a trio of drivers with a combined 17 Dakar victories between them.

But with Despres switching from motorcycles to cars and all-new 2008 DKR machines to figure out, it was unknown how good Peugeot would really be.

In the end, they would see Sainz knocked out of the event at Stage 5 and Peterhansel, an 11-time Dakar champ, finish in 11th to lead the team. Despres, who switched from motorcycles to cars for this year, was 34th.

Team director Bruno Famin said that the group’s conclusions from this year’s event were “mixed ones.”

“Speaking as pure competitors, and bearing in mind the ultimate objective we have set ourselves, we cannot be satisfied with the raw final result,” Famin said in a release. “But we are also very aware of the scale of the task ahead, so the principal objective of our first participation was just to gain experience.

“With two of our three Peugeot 2008 DKR entries on the finish ramp at Buenos Aires and no major technical problems, we can say that this goal has been reached. We’ve learned a huge amount in every area: technical, sporting and logistical. That’s fundamental for the next steps in the project.”

However, Famin admitted that in terms of performance, Peugeot’s DKRs were “not yet at the level required to be a contender for overall victory.”

“There is no lack of ideas when it comes to future development and a lot of work is already underway,” he added. “We’re now going to define our road map for the future by incorporating everything we learned from our experience in 2015.”

As for Peterhansel, he thinks there’s a solid foundation for Peugeot to do much better in 2016.

“At the start of the rally, we weren’t even sure that we would get past the second day and now we’re here at the finish without any major technical problems,” he said. “I also made some mistakes; we should have been better placed overall.

“The Peugeot 2008 DKR has very big potential but what I also saw over the last 15 days was an entire team, mechanics, and engineers who were truly motivated to give us the best possible chance – and that is great news for the future.

“We’ve got a long list of tasks and enormous scope for improvement. I’m sure we’ll be fighting for victory next year.”

Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

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Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

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