Nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb will attempt to set a new hillclimb record at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed in Peuegeot’s 208 T16 Pikes Peak car.
The Frenchman, whose main focus this season is with Citroen’s new World Touring Car Championship program, drove the specially designed monster to a new record on the Colorado Springs event last year. He will attempt to better Nick Heidfeld’s existing Goodwood record of 41.6 seconds on the 1.16-mile course, set in McLaren’s MP4-13 Formula 1 car in 1999.
The T16 was present at last year’s Festival, with Gregory Guilvert setting the joint-fastest time. However, unlike last year, its performance will be unrestricted.
Loeb’s confirmation came as organzers revealed a host of details about the 2014 event, at which Alain Prost, Emerson Fittipaldi, Richard Petty, Al Unser, Jacky Ickx and John Surtees will be among those present. Fittipaldi will demonstrate his F1 title-winning McLaren M23, Petty one of his race-winning NASCARs and Surtees the Ferrari 158 in which he claimed the 1964 title. Unser will drive his 1978 Indianapolis 500-winning Lola, while Andy Wallace is set to be reunited with his 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours-winning Jaguar XJR9.
FROM THE ARCHIVE: HEIDFELD’S GOODWOOD RECORD
Heidfeld’s 41.6sec run in the McLaren F1 car in 1999 is the target Loeb is aiming to beat. Back in July 2010, then-McLaren-chief Martin Whitmarsh reminisced to EDD STRAW about Heidfeld’s feat.
Heidfeld, then a 22-year-old Formula 3000 ace, was the man behind the wheel for McLaren’s record run 1999. On his final run, he put in a stunning run of 41.6sec to smash the previous record. He was trying hard, as Martin Whitmarsh, then McLaren’s managing director, recalls.
“It was a very special run,” he says. “It was starting to get very serious as we were using qualifying tyres, tyre warmers and running maximum downforce. You couldn’t help yourself – you had to go out and win it.
“I stood on the line and spoke to Nick, who was a very good young driver at the time, and gave him the lecture about it being inherently dangerous for him and for the spectators and to be careful and cautious. But then I said, ‘Just make sure that you’re quickest up the hill!'”
The German took Whitmarsh’s final point on board as he launched into a stunning run, visibly having to fight to keep the McLaren pointing the right way on the bumpy hill.
Whitmarsh continues: “He really hung it out in the first corner and I remember standing there and thinking, ‘How irresponsible am I talking to a young driver like that, because I wanted us to win?’
Fortunately, Heidfeld kept the McLaren out of the trees, the crowd and the walls to set the record, but the death knell had been sounded for such runs.
“I thought what I did was very unfair on Nick, so I went to Lord March and said that we can never race up the hill again,” says Whitmarsh. “I would continue to bring cars, but it can’t be timed and we couldn’t have a McLaren doing a demo when the others are timed.”
So the hill record stands to this day, and it remains one of the most spectacular moments of the past two decades for a contemporary grand prix car away from the world championship.