Nine-times World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb has conquered the 4.3km high Pikes Peak International Hill Climb to set an all-time record that many believe will never be beaten.
Loeb steered his insanely powerful 643kW Peugeot 208 T16 to victory at the legendary mountain race in Colorado, USA, with a time of 8 minutes 13 seconds, shattering Rhys Mille's previous 2012 record by 1 minute 33 seconds - a country mile in motorsport terms.
Loeb hammered up the 156 turn, 20km course at an average speed of 140km/h in perfect sunny conditions, while Rhys Millen came in second place with an average speed of 127km/h.
Despite beating his own record by a whopping 44 seconds, Millen was still 49 seconds off Loeb's pace, putting Peugeot's achievement in perspective.
Third placed Jean-Philippe Dayraut (also a Frenchman) was a further 40 seconds behind Mille's turbocharged V6 Hyundai Genesis Coupe race car. Dayraut drove his MINI Country powered by a Nissan GT-R twin-turbo V6 across the finish line in 9.42.
Only two days earlier, Millen told motoring.com.au "If they [Peugeot] have a good run on Sunday, I don’t think you'll ever see that record fall again."
After his record-breaking win, Loeb said he "felt really good in the car" and "pushed it hard from the start to the finish".
The Frenchman has been in Colorado Springs (where the event is held) for four weeks prior to the race, driving the public road course everyday to give himself the best chance of winning.
"I made no mistakes, and I felt the race was really good," said the French rally ace.
The Peugeot 208 T16 he drove to victory is a custom made race car that utilises several parts from its Le Mans race program, and is believed to have cost several million dollars to build. It follows in the footsteps of the Peugeot 405 T16 that Finn Ari Vatanen raced to victory in the 1989 Pikes Peak hill climb.
"To drive a car like this and race up here is what makes this special," said Loeb of the demonic Peugeot 208, which accelerates from 0-100km/h faster than an F1 car.
"It's amazing," he gushed.
The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb winds its way from 2862 metres (9390ft) to an astonishing 4300 metres (14,110ft) high finish line at the mountai's summit, making it one of the highest races on the planet.
Apart from the winding road that has caught many of the more than 2000 drivers off guard since the race started in 1916, the event is unique for its variety of vehicles. Everything from quads, to motorcycles, trucks, open-wheelers, vintage cars and even electric vehicles are fielded in the 'race to the clouds'.
While Hyundai was beaten in the headline 'unlimited' class by a resolute Peugeot, the Korean car maker won the 'time attack' class, as Paul Dallenbach set a new category record time of 9.46 in his turbocharged Genesis Coupe.
Other winners included Pikes Peak favourite Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima, who stole victory from a pair of determined Mitsubishi MiEV Evo II cars in the 'electric' class for his ninth win in the event.
While the electric Mitsubishi race car's qualified in first and second place earlier in the week, Tajima's time of 9.46 in his E-RUNNER race car handed him victory after rain-clouds drenched the track. It also marked a major milestone for the class -- the first electric race car to crack the nine minute mark.
Interestingly, the fastest motorcycle was an electric bike, the Lightning Electric SuperBike, with Carlin Dunne recording a time of 10:00 flat.
Many records were broken at Pikes Peak in 2013 due in large part to the track being fully sealed for the first time. In the past there have been gravel sections.
The question asked by many ecstatic spectators at the event was not whether Peugeot would return to defend its near-unbeatable record in 2014, but whether it needed to.
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Article and images from www.carsales.com.au