Sebastien Loeb has won the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado, smashing the previous record by more than 1min 30sec.
Behind the wheel of the 652kW Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak, the nine-time World Rally Champion covered the famous 20-kilometre, 156-turn course at an average speed of 145km/h to complete the 'Race to the Clouds' in 8min 19.878sec.
Significantly quicker than last year's record-setting run of 9min 46.164sec achieved by Rhys Millen, Loeb's new time set the trend with the top three finishers all beating the 2012 record.
Loeb said for him, this was the race of the year.
“I really didn’t expect anything better than 8m 15s, so to do 8m 13s was fantastic,” the Frenchman said.
“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.”
Finishing second to Loeb by 49 seconds, New Zealand-born Rhys Millen claimed second spot in his all-new rear-wheel drive Hyundai RMR PM580-T with a time of 9m 02.192sec.
“I knew I wasn’t going to beat Sebastien’s time, so I just decided to take no risks,” Millen said.
“You have to hand it to Loeb and Peugeot Sport: they were unbeatable. That time they set was simply incredible. When will it be beaten? It might never be.”
The win is Peugeot’s first at Pikes Peak since victories in 1988 and 1989 – the former a record-breaking run by Ari Vatanen in a Peugeot 405 T16 of 10m 47.220sec that became legend after the film ‘Climb Dance’ was made.
Stay tuned for a full wrap up of the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.