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.”