DAVID EVANS B
“Cottret is a legend at Peugeot”
iting my tongue for the second time brought genuine acceptance that Jean-paul Cottret is a hero. Like winning Dakar six times wasn’t enough… I was sitting in his seat alongside another Frenchman and another hero – but this one’s won Dakar 12 times: Stephane Peterhansel. The plan was for me to get a feel for what Cottret does by reading his route notes and then getting out of the car and changing a tyre after a pretend puncture.
The notes looked pretty straightforward, nothing I hadn’t seen before: tulip diagram and cumulative and interim distances from junction to corner to obstacle. And as changing a tyre… how difficult could that be?
“The car is very comfortable,” assured Cottret, opening the door for me to get in.
Hmm. I didn’t doubt it would be very comfortable. What I did doubt was my ability to get in it.
You know that thing when the postman’s trying to push an oversized parcel through your letterbox?
And comfortable was questionable. I know the HANS device is all very good at stopping me from breaking my neck, but when you’ve always been taught to make eye contact when talking to somebody, it can almost cause an injury itself.
The test wasn’t in Dakar – not least because Dakar’s no longer in Dakar. It was in France. So, Dijon. And it was snowing.
That’s not so bad; I remember watching a Rothmans-liveried Porsche 959 in the snow on the prologue stage near Paris once. I digress. Peter dropped the clutch and we were away. “Hairpin right!” I shouted. “Where?” came the reply. What? Where what? “I need the distance…” Oh yeah… “What now?” Err… “DISTANCE!” The interim gave me the distances, but they were in kilometres, like 0.29. Sitting here, I know immediately that means 290 metres. Confronted by a distance of ‘0.09’ I simply sat and stared at it. Nine hundred? No. Nine? Must be nine. “Jump, nine metres!” Then I bit my tongue. Again. Stephane was awesome. And patient. Especially when it came to changing the tyre. And me getting out of the car…
And the Peugeot was something else. Quite how Bruno Famin and his team turned the absolute pig that was the 2015 car into this Dakar-dominating rocket ship is beyond me. But they did.
And Jean-paul? He’s nothing short of a miracle-working, tyre-changing, mathematical genius in the car.
Turns out it was 90, by the way.