Qualifying ahead of the 2013 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has begun, with Sebastien Loeb topping his class on both runs in the Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak.
The 208 is competing in the 13 Unlimited class, a class where rules are only set to govern safety, with qualifying taking place over the lower part of the hill climb. The fastest driver gets to lead off the road first, with the entire class deciding which start window they would like for Sunday’s race.
“It’s not like a race: qualifying isn’t really a crucial part of what goes on here, ” admitted Loeb. “It’s how you perform on the day that counts. You have to rely on your own skills but also the car, the weather and the road conditions as well. Anything can still happen, but obviously we’re here to try and win: that’s our mission and we’ll be disappointed if we don’t achieve it. So far we’ve got off to a really good start.”
Loeb’s first time on the 8.3 kilometre qualifying section was a 3:26.728 seconds, a whole 23 seconds faster than second placed Norma prototype of Romain Dumas, who comes to Pikes Peak on the back of GT class honours at Le Mans.
Following some set-up changes, Loeb once again topped the time sheets in the afternoon session, setting a 3:26.153 seconds, this time 17 seconds ahead of Dumas, who once again set the second fastest time.
“Sebastien completed two clean qualifying runs with no problems at all,” said Peugeot’s project chief Jean-Christophe Pallier. “We’re happy with the set up of the car but we’re not taking anything at all for granted. I’m sure we’ve not seen the ultimate pace of our rivals yet. Now the target is to stay fully focused to achieve our objectives. There’s a slight advantage in starting first, as it means that you definitely won’t be affected by other peoples’ racing incidents, but that doesn’t take anything away from the massive challenge that lies ahead.”