Rallying doesn’t receive the attention it deserves these days, but that doesn’t mean manufacturers are losing interest. As anyone involved in the sport will know, rallying, particularly at the levels where privateer teams are most common, can still be extremely profitable, while at the same time providing manufacturers with a test bed to further engine and chassis development. No brand knows this better than Peugeot, which as of this month has put its next-generation 208R2 car onto French stages ahead of its 2020 competition debut. Important for the customers teams who will eventually run the car - and important too for anyone with a preference for French hot hatches because we all know what's likely to follow...
It would certainly continue a trend seen with the predecessor. Over 450 208R2s sold since the last model was introduced to competition back in 2012, so it’s a familiar site on the stages of rallies across the world and has drawn a direct link between Pug motorsport and the brand's hot hatch lineup. With the unveiling of the new 208 supermini at the Geneva motor show last month – yeah, we didn’t notice either – Peugeot Sport has now turned its attention to ramping up performance from the road car’s 1.2-litre triple engine so it can compete with the likes of Ford’s Fiesta R2 and Renault’s Twingo alternative in the FIA’s second-level class.
Regs dictate that R2 cars have to be two-wheel drive and use engines of between 1.6 and 2.0-litre or 1,067cc and 1,333cc turbocharged formats; the 208 just fits within the latter. The most potent version of the road 208 produces 130hp, but the 999cc-powered Fiesta R2 offers 200hp, so expect the little Pug’s output to be boosted significantly – Peugeot Sport boss Bruno Famin promised a “substantial increase in performance”. The CMP base of the new car is also 30kg lighter than the old one’s, which should provide engineers with more freedom when it comes to playing with weight distribution. On that matter, each R2 car must way no less than 1080kg.
Now, we’re not suggesting the 208R2’s 200hp-ish triple and rally-spec chassis will be copied and pasted onto a road model. In fact, PH understand that it’s unlikely Peugeot will launch a red-blooded GTI version of the new 208 at all, with the brand instead opting to produce an electrified version (probably a mild hybrid) that will have plenty of poke but less of an out-and-out hot hatch demeanour, in order to adhere to CO2-cutting plans for the next decade. So there’ll be no direct successor to the old 208 GTI, a car PH’s staffers ran and grew very fond of last year, which is a shame.
Still, at least the arrival of the 208R2 shows Peugeot Sport isn’t quite done with the hot hatch formula just yet. We can’t wait to see it get muddy out in the forest next year!