VW Hopes to Take Revenge on Entire Mountain With I.D. R Pikes Peak Racer
Electric vehicles have been a sore spot for many motorsport enthusiasts — odd, considering they offer massive performance gains via gobs of instant torque. There’s just something about EVs that keeps them from gaining mass appeal. That said, Formula E is gaining some traction and automakers continue developing high-end electrics in the hopes of turning a profit and paving the way for mainstream models.
Volkswagen Group, which has promised to shift deep into electrification in the coming years, really needs to make these cars appealing. Its I.D. product line for the VW brand has spawned numerous concept vehicles with an emphasis on building positive associations. The Buzz is the most obvious example. Essentially the battery-electric reincarnation of the Microbus, the Buzz aims to help customers see EVs as friendly and fun, while tacking on some nostalgia for good measure.
However, the Buzz doesn’t offer heart-pounding excitement or mind-warping performance, so VW had to build a battery-powered racer. Announced last year, teaser images of the model showed a full-tilt insane vehicle outfitted in hill-climb gear. Volkswagen claims the model will enter into the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb for 2018 to take revenge on behalf of a Mk. II Golf from 1987.
Equipped with a massive rear wing and front spoiler, the I.D. R Pikes Peak racer is highly reminiscent of ultra-serious hill-climb cars. However, while the VW may have the aero of the highly modified Suzuki Escudo (or first-gen Sidekick in the United States) Dirt Trial Car, its race to the clouds will be comparably silent and done on entirely paved roads.
“We want to be at the forefront of electro-mobility with Volkswagen and the I.D. family,” said Volkswagen management board member Frank Welsch in a statement. “Competing in the most famous hill climb in the world with the I.D. R Pikes Peak is a valuable test for the general development of electric cars.”
VW intends to offer at least 20 fully-electric models by 2025, with the first hitting the global market by 2019. Pikes Peak provides an opportunity for the company to build positive publicity for itself.
“Pikes Peak is without question the most iconic hill climb in the world. The I.D. R project represents a fantastic opportunity for Volkswagen to change the conversation about e-mobility, both emotionally and from a sporting perspective,” said Jürgen Stackmann, another VW board member with responsibility for marketing and sales.
Volkswagen is branding the hill climb with references to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb of 1987, when it brought a twin-engined Golf but was unable to complete the race when the front suspension buckled. Phrases like “Unfinished Business” and “1Score2Settle” saturate the social media campaign around the event.
Similar to the vintage prototype Golf (and the Escudo), the I.D. R is also likely to use a twin-engined design to drive both axles. While VW hasn’t confirmed the official setup of the car, it has specified that it will be all-wheel drive and utilize the new MEB platform. The current record for electric prototypes is held by Rhys Millen, who pushed his eO PP100 up the hill in an incredible 8:57.11. Volkswagen hopes to take the record away from Millen and possibly achieve an overall victory at the event.
“It is about time we settled the score,” says Volkswagen Motorsport director, Sven Smeets. “The I.D. R Pikes Peak represents an extremely exciting challenge for us, to show what is possible in motorsport with an electric drivetrain. The entire team behind our driver Romain Dumas is highly motivated to set a new record for electric cars.”
This year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb takes place on June 24th in Colorado. We expect to see the I.D. R racer in the flesh before then.
[Images: Volkswagen Group]
A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.
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