Peugeot 205 Turbo 16. Rally gun of the highest order

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While the designers and constructors from Project M24 are working energetically on the Peugeot 205, Jean Todt (the current FIA boss) is thinking about a new sports project. In October 1981 he was appointed as competition manager of Peugeot. Peugeot-Talbot Sport is founded in December 1981. He sees enormous potential in the forthcoming Peugeot 205. His foresight is correct, because Peugeot is once again a major player in the international rally circuit. With the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16, a top rally gun.

Peugeot has built a strong reputation in long African distance rallies in the 404s and 1975s. The Peugeot 504 is a welcome and successful guest, winning four times in the Safari Rally during the XNUMXs. Peugeot also wins this in XNUMX with the XNUMX (Andersson-Hertz). The Rallye du Maroc of that year is won by the team Mickola-Todt, again the 504 is the weapon. Jean Todt ends his career as a successful navigator in 1981. That year he is active as co-pilot of Guy Fréquelin in the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus and the Peugeot 504 V6 Coupé. Talbot became world champion with the constructors in 1981. In the drivers classification, Fréquelin (and with that also Todt) finishes second behind Ari Vatanen. He leaves number three Hannu Mikkola behind.

The birth of Peugeot Talbot Sport

Todt has a warm relationship with PSA, and now too Citroën and Chrysler Europe has incorporated. The constructors champion of 1981 is also part of the concern, which is in dire straits financially. But the French want to push the sporty nose back to the window. Jean Todt is appointed as director sportif, he must be creative with the means. The new sports branch of PSA-Peugeot Citroën and which is called Peugeot talbot sport. The plans are clear. Rally group B makes its appearance for the 1982 season, and that is also the section where Todt is aiming his arrows. In the pursuit of reaching the absolute rally top, Project M24 is an ideal starting point for the development of a new rally ace.

Rally cannon in development

On the basis of the future Peugeot 205, a rally gun with four-wheel drive, a centrally placed 1775 cc engine with turbo, a sixteen-valve cylinder head and a longer wheelbase (in order to create more space for the mid-engine) is being developed. That engine is a well-known one from the PSA Peugeot stables Citroën, in the sense that it was initially conceived for the fast versions of the Peugeot 305 and the Citroën BX. Ultimately, only the 205 T16 will get this XU8 T engine.

Also very expensive street version

The cannon was presented one day before the official press debut of the regular 205. The Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 was born. This also requires a homologation series of 200 street versions. Both today and at the time of its release, the street legal 205 Turbo 16 is a very expensive toy. The new collector's item costs NLG 160.000. The all-wheel drive Turbo 16 is a completely different car from the rest of the 205 range. Heuliez models a fully hinged flap from the B-pillar, the transverse mid-engine in the street version already delivers 200 DIN-HP. Peugeot 205 designer Gérard Welter also influences the creation of the new gun.

Debut in Corsica

The arrival of the 205 Turbo 16 is not only an important step in the marketing support of the 205. The new rally car has also credited the Peugeot brand name with golden letters in the annals of rallying from 1984 onwards. After a long test period, the 205 Turbo 16 makes its debut on the home ground of the Tour de Corse. The debut season is going well, also because the new team has names of stature on board. Ari Vatanen impresses with victories in Finland, San Remo and Great Britain (RAC).

1985: World champion among constructors and drivers

In 1985 Peugeot Talbot Sport raced to the world constructors title with the 205 Turbo 16. That season they use the 350 DIN-PK version and the 205 Turbo 16 Evo 2 version, which puts a scorching 500 DIN-PK at the crankshaft. During that WRC season, it won no less than seven of the twelve rallies with men like Ari Vatanen, Timo Salonen and Bruno Saby. Timo Salonen also becomes world champion among the drivers. The season has a mourning edge, because Ari Vatanen is involved in a serious accident in Argentina. Fortunately he survives that, but he is physically and mentally disabled for a long time.

1986: repeat of success, unrest in San Remo

In 1986 Peugeot Talbot Sport becomes world champion again, and Juha Kankkunen now receives the laurel wreath as a Peugeot driver. The manufacturer's title is quite a challenge. The Peugeot results are initially dropped from the San Remo rally. Officially due to irregularities in the timekeeping. The 205 Turbo 16 E2 would also not have the correct side-skirts according to regulations. That is not a theme all season. But for the organization in Italy it is a reason to disqualify the Peugeots. Interesting detail: Peugeot's closest competitor in the world title race is Lancia. The Italians can make excellent use of the points in the title race and become home one, two and three. Of course the Peugeot delegation does not agree with the decision, which is on all sides smells. Ultimately, San Remo 1986 is rightly excluded from that season's global title fight. Peugeot Talbot Sport becomes world champion in 1986. That is also the last season in which the Group B cars are active on the WRC circuit.

Also unstoppable in Dakarrally

Because the risky Group B is discontinued (as a result of a few fatal accidents), Peugeot Talbot Sport is focusing on a new field of activity: Paris-Dakar. Ari Vatanen makes a gem of a comeback in 1987. He wins the monster rally with the 205 Turbo 16 Grand Raid. Juha Kankkunen does the same in 1988, also because Vatanen's 405 T16 was stolen. The car is found, but the organization disqualifies Vatanen. The Finn, however, gets his gram in the Dakar editions of 1989, 1990 (Peugeot 405 T16) and 1991 (Citroën ZX Rallye Raid). The French brands are unapproachable in the desert rallies and in the European rally championships. The Peugeots also leave an indelible impression in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.

Rally tastemakers of the eighties

Across the board, the French are among the absolute rally tastemakers of the eighties. And it is especially the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16, which with its Peugeot-Talbot Sport teams deeply anchored in the history of top-level rallying.


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  1. In response to Dirk's message (9 March 18:47 pm); On my 17th I bought my first car, a 205 1.6GTI. With about 120 hp indeed a dangerous car for young people, but oohh, how I really enjoyed that car! Up to a CRX 1.6 16v DOHC three years later, not nearly as much fun as the 205 in retrospect. After that, faster and faster, even a 911 4S, but the memories of that 205 are irreplaceable.

  2. 500 hp in such a small car?
    Swallow! 🤢
    In the wrong hands, something like that turns from a vehicle into a dangerous weapon of course.
    However, there is nothing to be said about the technical tour de force. Good, and good that it exists. Right? Such a petrol-powered catapult. Even more so that it stays intact for so long.
    'Sjpitse mennekes', those engine builders. Tribute!

  3. This story applies generally, even today. You don't need a high-powered motorcycle or car from the past. Lack of experience and overconfidence makes any car a vehicle on the road to misery, as every insurer knows.

  4. The civilian version was an affordable, light car with far too powerful engine. The often young administrators perished when they mirrored their idols with too little experience. The high speeds the light car reached - coupled with too little experience - often left it off the track. In such accidents, the car often broke in half. Unfortunately, the safety provisions in those years were not as they are today, with all the consequences that entails. Conclusion, good car, but too powerful and too light in inexperienced hands.

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