Peugeot 208 Rally4: the new benchmark in the two-wheel drive class
The 208 Rally4 was an instant hit with rally drivers on its competitive bow in 2020, with its sporty design and first class performances enabling them to fight at the front in the two-wheel drive categories. Moreover, the 208 Rally Cup France has provided some very closely-contested racing at all levels, as have the various national Cups organised throughout Europe.
One of the leaders in rally’s promotional formulas for the last two decades, the “Peugeot Cup” began a new era this year with the introduction of the 208 Rally4 for the 208 Rally Cup France title contenders. Featuring a race calendar including tarmac and gravel rallies, Peugeot’s promotion formula is an essential stepping stone for young drivers looking to start a career in rallying.
The 208 Rally4, developed with all the racing expertise of Peugeot Sport’s engineers and compliant with the brand-new Rally4 regulations drawn up by the FIA, is set to compete in the top-level class for two-wheel drive cars.
In line with its long-held reputation for identifying talented young drivers, the first half of the 2021 season of the 208 Rally Cup France has been incredibly competitive, where the slightest error has proven costly. The new points system put in place by Peugeot Sport, where prizes go to the top five in each category, ensures competitors remain in contention for the titles awarded at the end of the season.
Mathieu Franceschi and Lucie Baud (PH Sport by Minerva Oil) grabbed the lead in the U29 standings after winning in Langres, whilst Réhane Gany (Rossel Compétition), alongside co-driver Franck le Floch, head the Junior category (U24). The Belgian crew of Armand Fumal and Michaël Louette (Burton Racing) have made a successful start to life in the 208 Rally Cup France as they lead the Gentlemen Drivers’ standings after the first three rallies of the season.
The 208 Rally Cup France drivers and teams are now set to enjoy the summer break before returning to action at the unmissable Rallye du Mont-Blanc on 3-4 September. The Cup drivers will then stay on tarmac for a series of fast, technical and uncompromising rallies – the Rallye Coeur de France, the Critérium des Cévennes and the Rallye du Var – events where several new crews will be joining the 208 Rally Cup France field.
Hotly disputed in France, the 208 Rally Cup is also contested beyond the French border at various, testing events. Alberto Monarri leads the 208 Iberica Cup at the half-way stage, ahead of a trio of drivers consisting of Miguel Campos, Oscar Palomo-Ortiz and Alejandro Cachon.
Already rolled out in some European countries, the 208 Rally Cup has extended its international reach with the addition of new Cups this season in Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Peru. Christopher Lucchesi Jr. and Fabio Farina are engaged in a high-octane fight to win the Italian Cup. With the two drivers having matched each other thus far, the last three rounds look set to prove decisive. In Hungary, Gabor Nemet is a point ahead of Bendeguz Hangodi, despite a retirement at the start of the season. In the Czech Republic, René Dohnal holds a clear lead after three consecutive wins on the demanding Czech tarmac roads. In Belgium, the Stellantis Cup made its debut at the start of the season. Frédéric Caprasse and Thibaud Mazuin have enjoyed a close battle for the lead in the 208 Rally4. Following its popularity in Europe, the 208 Rally Cup has now crossed the Atlantic to Peru, where the promotional formula is enjoying growing success.
The creation of the 208 Rally Cup United has provided all competitors entered in a national Cup with the opportunity to take part in another series abroad, without paying any additional entry fees. This formula offers 208 Rally Cup drivers the chance to experience racing on new roads in an optimised context.
Competing in the Italian Two-Wheel Drive Championship, Andrea Nucita and his brother Giuseppe Nucita currently lead the standings. The 208 Rally4 crew has plenty of stiff competition, but their record is blemish-free so far, with three wins out of three.
Sorely tested in competition on a variety of specific, tricky roads – be it as part of the promotional formulas or in two-wheel drive classes at other rallies – the 208 Rally4 has consistently featured near top of the timesheets with drivers feeling confident and comfortable in the car. Be they increasingly demanding drivers looking for good results or those looking to kick-start a professional career, the 208 Rally4 has confirmed it is easy to get to grips with and offers serious performances. Peugeot Sport Customer Racing’s best seller has already racked up a number of wins in two-wheel drive classes on all surfaces.
WHAT THEY SAID…
Jean-Marc Vinatier, 208 Rally Cup Manager:
“We have just finished the first half of 208 Rally Cup France 2021 with three rallies held, two on gravel and one on tarmac. Once again, the level has been very high in the 208 Rally Cup with a high-quality line-up and some very fast drivers. We have a base of just under fifteen crews at each round and we hope to add a few drivers at the last four tarmac rallies. In addition to the three-way fight in the U29 category, the main class, with Mathieu Franceschi, Pedro Almeida and Hugo Margaillan, there is also a very close contest going on in the Junior class (U24), where Réhane Gany and Hugo Louvel are clearly going for the title, whilst Calvin Lucas and Lucas Darmezin have shown impressive pace and will be followed closely. The Gentlemen Drivers are mainly here to enjoy themselves as much as possible and make the most of the potential of the 208 Rally4. Whilst the racing is unquestionably competitive, there is nevertheless a very good atmosphere among the 208 Rally Cup drivers. As the season moves into its second half and the last four rallies – all on tarmac, the drivers know we’re getting down to business for end of the Cup. Consistency will be key for the drivers hoping to secure a seat in the C3 Rally2. Already established in Spain and Portugal with the Iberica Cup, the 208 Rally Cup is now contested in several European and Latin American countries with various crews challenging for the title. The addition of these promotional formulas proves once again Peugeot Sport’s expertise in this area and confirms how successful the 208 Rally4 has been with rally drivers.”
Mathieu Franceschi, Leader of the 208 Rally Cup France:
“We have made a very good start to the season with Lucie Baud, my co-driver. After a ‘false start’ at the Rallye Vosges-Grand Est, with an off meaning we used up our Joker at the opening round of the season, we had to bounce back. With Lucie and the support of everyone around us, we substantially reviewed and reassessed our approach. A few days later, we put things right by winning the Rallye Terre de Castine. From that point onwards, we continued to develop our way of working to increase our confidence. We arrived in Langres in relaxed mood. We executed our plan perfectly to win the rally and take the lead in the 208 Rally Cup standings. We are going to keep doing the same thing to prepare for the last four tarmac rallies. I feel very confident in the 208 Rally4 but we can't afford to ease off at all!”