Last year during “Le Dakar” I showed a fictional competitor of the Paris-Dakar rally by Jean Graton. This year I’ll show a true Dakar Classic, the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Grand Raid.

So what was all so special about that 205T16 Grand Raid? I’ve told already about the Group B rally monstre a while ago. And we all know what happened to Group B so when it was killed Peugeot had a great platform left without any use for it. So what about Paris-Dakar?

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Well, for Paris-Dakar, with it’s huge stages, the normal Group B Turbo 16 had a few issues. Too little fuel capacity, enough power (500hp easily in race trim) but probably too little reliability and, it’s wheelbase was a bit too short for dancing on the Dunes. And, a longer wheelbase would add to comfort a bit as well. A nice plus for long distances.

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So Peugeot Sport added 31 cms of length to the chassis. Which gave them the opportunity to add a bigger fueltank of 400 liters (4 times as big as the normal 205 T16) between the engine and the seats. And the engine was detuned a bit, the 1.8 four-cylinder turbo 16 valve engine put out about 360hp in the Grand Raid.

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All these changes did something for the weight of course. Whereas the last evolutionary model (205 T16 E2) was just under 1000 kgs, the Grand Raid would weigh 1360 kgs. But, that was including a full tank of gas and two spare tires. And I’m sure they increased it’s ride height a bit as well.

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And it was an instant hit. Prior to the ‘87 edition of the Paris-Dakar rally raid, only 4k kms of testing was done. Well, I’m not sure if it’s that little but I can imagine it ain’t that much for a factory team. And Vatanen had a real slow start with his nr. 205 (!) Peugeot 205.

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The sand of Brabant’s dunes (recognize any of it BvdV - The Dutch Engineer?) looks a bit grey but that’s because it’s finally freezing around here!

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Because in the first stage he broke a wheel and finished... 275th. Let’s just say it all was new for Peugeot. Many new things that 9th edition. Jacky Ickx replacing a seat in a Porsche with one in a Lada. Trucks getting really fast with Dutchman Jan de Rooij (father of current competitor Gerard) getting 11th overall. The first year cars taking part that were not old school 4WDs (I think, some buggies maybe). And the first year starting without Thierry Sabine, founder of the Paris-Dakar rally, organizing it as he crashed in a helicopter a year earlier.

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But Vatanen recovered quickly and proved to be the quickest in the end, in front of a Range Rover. Peugeot entered with two other 205 Grand Raids, the second one (driven by Kenyan Shekhar Mehta) finished 5th. The 3rd 205 T16, driven by Italian Andrea Zanussi, scored a DNF due to engine failures.

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A year later Peugeot would return with both the 205 and 405 T16. That would be a true adventure with the car-napping of Vatanen’s newer 405 which led to a disqualify (he was leading the event!) and a lot of name calling between Peugeot’s Jean Todt (“Napoleon of the desert”) and FIA’s Jean-Marie Balestre (“Bokassa of Motorsport”). But that’s for another French Friday. Maybe.

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So it’s life was only extended with two more years? Well, this one, the Grand Raid, was what the 405 T16 was based on (with wins at Paris Dakar and Pikes Peak - with again Ari Vatanen in ‘88 and Robby “son of” Unser in ‘89). And after Peugeot started their Le Mans adventure with the 905 in the early ‘90's Citroen used it again as a base for their ZX Rallye-raid although that one got a way bigger 2499 cc XU15 engine.

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C’est ça. I think it’s great to see Peugeot taking part again in Dakar. Last year with the 2008 DKR, this year with the 3008 DKR. Totally different concept than it’s main competitor, the Mini All4 Racing. Both diesels but Peugeot opted for RWD instead of 4WD. “Lighter, less stuff will break down”. Unless you pulverise your Peugeot after rolling your 3008 several times and ending up at the bottom of a ravine like Sainz did yesterday (5th time in a row Sainz doesn’t Finish the entire raid!). Otherwise Peugeot is proving to be right as they were successful from the start. They won last year (their “maiden voyage”) and are leading right now in Le Dakar. Well, “Dakar”, it’s in South America this year. But hey...

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Merci et Bon Week-end!