23 Mar 2012
PEUGEOT PARTY POOPER
Peugeot pulling out of motor racing has not been at all well received in motor sport circles . Not only did they pull out the day before entries closed for this year's Le Mans 24 hours race - thus depriving the fans of another epic Audi/Peugeot battle-but they have really taken the interest out of the new FIA Endurance Championship in its first year .This had promised to be a great series and a real attraction to motor sport fans who miss the old World Sports Car Championship and who are not attracted to Bernie's Circus .
Peugeot cited cost constraint as the reason for the withdrawal but strangely they announced their decision whilst the team were testing the completed new car at Sebring so much of the money has presumably already been spent .
Peugeot's most recent foray into motor racing has had mixed success .They competed at Le Mans 5 times but only won once in 2009 although they came tantatisingly close in 2011.However they were very successful in the American Le Mans series taking back to back series titles and many race wins . The irony is that Peugeot ( and their associated brand Citroen) do not sell cars in North America and have not done so for many years.The only place you can find new Peugeots and Citroens in North America is on the tiny islands of St Pierre and Miquelon which are a sovereign French territory just 38km off the coast of Newfoundland,Canada.The French are odd aren't they?
Anyway Peugeot have taken the interest out of the 2012 Le Mans which now promises to be another Audi procession unless Toyota can pull a rabbit out of the hat in their works team comeback year and given their abysmal record in 8 years of Formula 1 this seems highly unlikely.I'm glad that friend Patrick and I had already made the decision to give the 24 hours a miss this year and to go to the Le Mans Classic.
I have a lot of affection for Peugeot as I headed up the sales and marketing for the Australian importer from 1981 to 1990 and this involved many trips to Paris and some great launches and motor sport forays when Peugeot were rallying the 205 Turbo 16 .We still have a Peugeot in our garage - not a current model.
Peugeot made some great cars during that era particularly the 205 GTI and the 505 which was a really comfortable, well built and tough car much loved in "rough" road markets particularly Africa and South America .Now their cars are generally boring .And their build quality does not match the very high levels being achieved by their competitors .Here is Australia,as elsewhere ,their sales are slipping very badly with VW and now the Korean brands eating their lunch .The response of the Peugeot board to their sales crisis is to cut costs but no car manufacturer ever saved their way to success .The only way to suceed in the car industry is to have great products .Nothing else - absolutely nothing else-counts as the recent success of VW,Hyundai,Kia and the recent revival of Land Rover clearly shows .
Here's a photo of one of Peugeot's better days - the final lap at the 2009 Le Mans 24 hours with the team in formation -they finished first ,second and sixth.Photo taken by me on a Canon G7 from the outside of the track at Tetra Rouge corner with the cars turning onto the Mulsanne straight for the last time .
Top photo above shows two team cars in the early evening during last year's exciting race when Audi beat Peugeot by just 10 seconds. A Leica X1 photo
And another photo from the Peugeot glory days of the World Rally Championship in the 1980's with the amazing Group B cars . This photo was taken by me during the 1985 Rally of New Zealand and shows the eventual winners Salonen and Harjanne on a special stage in their Turbo16 . This photo was taken by me on an Olympus OM2 on Ektachrome film .Sadly at the time I loaned the original slides which were superb to a local motoring magazine for a story and unbeknown to me at the time they gave me back second rate dupes(copies) which were overcontrasty and not quite sharp . I was pretty annoyed when I found out but by then it was way too late .I have tried to recover them in Lightroom but they are a shadow of their former selves .
By coincidence Timo Salonen took me around Peugeot's test rally circuit at a launch event in France a few months before in a Turbo 16 . An unforgettable experience .Those cars were fast and exciting.