Oct 02, 2016
Britain’s Harry Hunt is ready for one of the biggest challenges yet of his short Cross Country career to date, when he steps up to the mighty Peugeot 2008 DKR this weekend: the car that won the legendary Dakar Rally back in January.
Not only that but it also won the Silk Way Rally over the summer, and the car that Harry will be using on this weekend’s Rallye du Maroc – a traditional warm-up for the Dakar – is the very same machine that Peugeot factory driver Cyril Despres piloted to success from Moscow to Beijing in July.
For Harry, who is co-driven once more by the experienced Andy Schulz, next week’s African event is strictly a learning experience as he gets to grips with his brand new 350-horsepower machine, in preparation for the Dakar.
Before setting off for the demanding sand dunes of Morocco, he gave his thoughts on his state-of-the-art new mount, which he will be calling home throughout next week from October 2-7.
How much have you driven the car up to now and what did you think of it?
HH: “I’ve only driven the car for about 20 kilometres at a short test close to Perpignan in France. It seemed amazing: it really did. Everyone always talks about how long the suspension travel is on the Peugeot but it’s incredible to actually experience it for yourself. Over the bumps you can just stay flat out and the car simply absorbs it: even on the roughest surfaces it feels like you’re on a motorway. The main thing to get used to though is the fact that it’s rear-wheel drive, and strangely I’ve never actually driven a rear-wheel drive rally car before, ever.”
So what are the main differences?
HH: “You’ve got all the power going not to four wheels but just two, so it definitely kicks out a lot more and slides a lot more. So there’s a little bit of that to get used to and obviously the Peugeot does pitch a lot under braking and acceleration, which means there’s that to get used to as well. But overall the car is a dream to drive and really smooth. The gear changes are amazing, the power’s great and it just stops a lot better than you think it would. It’s very light, and that clearly helps it to have huge braking ability.”
What’s going to be the most challenging thing for you to get used to?
HH: “Left-foot braking really has a much bigger effect than you would think in this car, because of the rear-wheel drive versus the four-wheel drive I’ve been used to before. Then the driving position is quite different, you’re a bit further back from the windscreen and lower down, so it’s a different view. That’s not a negative thing at all; it’s just something to get accustomed to – like the fact that the handbrake is in a slightly different position. And then obviously there’s all the different buttons and the way that things are laid out inside. There’s a lot of learning to do to find out how everything works.”
So what’s the objective in Morocco?
HH: “It’s simply about learning and getting back in the car with Andy. Neither me nor Andy know the car at all so it will be interesting to find out its capabilities: what’s going to be flat and what’s not going to be flat? We just don’t know. So everything is absorbing as much knowledge as possible and we’ll take it day by day. We’ve got to finish because we need to get the kilometres before Dakar, definitely. So I guess I have the same objective as last year – finish the rally – but my expectations are probably a little bit lower, just because we’re both so fresh to the car. If something goes wrong, neither of us knows the car, so it’s going to take us a lot longer to sort it out than it would normally. And of course we’ve got a new team with PH Sport, so we’ll need to get used to working with them and making sure that we have the right communication. I can’t wait, it should be really good fun.”
The good news for Harry is that he doesn’t in fact have to wait much longer, as tomorrow he sets off for Morocco and nearly 2000 kilometres of competition. With the prologue stage taking place on Sunday, the competitors take in spectacular scenery across the desert and down the Moroccan coastline, before the finish next Friday in Erfoud.
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For more information and times from the Rallye du Maroc, visit: rallyemaroc.npo.fr
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