Lion Cubs and Guinea Pigs
In September this year, Peugeot Talbot Sport will be launching a club specifically aimed at helping push budding young rally drivers up the ladder, with the ultimate aim of seeing more British drivers in world class rallying.
The car being offered to club members at a discount is the 309GTi. It has been selected partly because it provides a competitive performance package, and partly because a competitive image is sought for the 309 range.
Naturally the cars will already have been through the hands of the competition department, so the costs of development, which can amount to £60,000 at this level, will be spared. Each car sold will be the same, and there will not be any modifications allowed at all. The idea is for Competitions Director Des O’Dell and his team of judges to select the eventual winner on both driving ability and all-round professionalism rather than simply allowing a better-tweaked car to win the Challenge. The prize is a works-backed drive on the 1989 RAC Rally.
Not only the cars but also the parts will be sold at a discount to those joining the club, although just how the company is going to ensure that all 309GTi bought this way will actually be entered on the Challenge has yet to be sorted out. Trade suppliers such as Shell Oils, Michelin, Bilstein and Hella will also be supporting the club by offering discounts on their products to all participants.
Every owner will be expected to maintain and run his or her own car, and provide mechanics and support groups on the rallies entered, but on all 309GTi Challenge events there will be a works parts support van and club co-ordinators in attendance to help. Parts from the van will not be free, but a voucher system will be introduced which will make discounts possible. Financial assistance will also be offered to competitors in the form of start money and bonus money an all rounds of the Challenge.
The Challenge itself will start in 1989. It will not be comprised simply of events which already make up a championship; rather it will be a selection starting with restricted events, building up to a mixture of gravel and road rallies and finally leading up to an international event. it is planned that there should also be at least one foreign rally, one rallycross and a race meeting.
Competitors will be judged on their all-round driving skills. Particular emphasis is being laid on the under-25s, who will always be given preference of training days –the winner in this “junior” category will receive a car and support package for the whole of the following season.
Peugeot’s initiative will offer more than just a chance to purchase a well-sorted rally car at a fraction of its true development cost and then go driving –there is also a training programme involved. This is a vital function of the Club, and includes lecturing on all aspects of team organisation, the preparation of a rally car, budgeting, public relations and so on.
As a pilot run for the Challenge, Peugeot-Talbot Sport is this year backing Colin McRae, Warren Hunt and Iwan Roberts, with one being chosen to compete on this year’s RAC Rally. The principle is the same, with no driver being allowed to change his car fundamentally and each being required to provide a full report after each event. On some events as well, both Kalle Grundel and Louise Aitken-Walker have been entered, not only to further develop the machinery but also to act as target cars.
Although further announcements will be issued later this year, those wishing more information are advised to contact Colin Malkin, Peugeot 309GTi Rally Club, Peugeot Talbot Sport, PO Box 25, Huber Road, Coventry CV3 1BD. WK