VW’s wild electric racer

Volkswagen’s all-electric IDR creates history and shatters Pikes Peak record at first attempt. By Jake Groves

VOLKSWAGEN’S IDR PIKES Peak electric race car, driven by Romain Dumas, has smashed rally legend Sebastien Loeb’s 2013 Pikes Peak hillclimb record by an astonishing 16 seconds. On June 24, Dumas set a time of 7:57.148sec on the world famous mountain road to win his fourth Pikes Peak trophy. The IDR was almost 40sec quicker than the second-placed Norma M20 SF PKP prototype, also running in the Unlimited Class.

“The IDR Pikes Peak is the most impressive car I have ever driven in competition,” Dumas beamed.

Volkswagen hadn’t had a works-backed contender since a twin-engined Golf had mixed results, in the ’80s, but maybe management had a premonition of how well the IDR would go?

“It’s about time we settled the score,” VW Motorsport boss Sven Smeets said prior to the event. “Pikes Peak is our first e-project. This is completely new territory for us.”

An all-electric powertrain makes sense at an event that finishes over 3km above sea level. Unlike internal combustion engines, electric motors don’t start gasping at high altitudes; they don’t need air. But the IDR’s rear wing does. Pikes Peak is not only a power challenge but also an aerodynamic challenge, as air pressure decreases the higher the car climbs. The IDR spent hours in Porsche’s Weissach wind tunnel and benefited from data from Porsche’s LMP1 race program.

“The altitude on Pikes Peak means that the air we are driving through is on average 35 per cent thinner,” consultant Willy Rampf, former technical director of the Sauber F1 team, said.

“As a result, we lose 35 per cent of our downforce compared to a racetrack at sea level. The huge rear wing allows us to compensate for some of this lost downforce.”

The IDR was developed in just 250 days. Its twin electric ‘E-engines’ generate 500kW/650Nm and drive all four wheels. It can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 2.25sec (quicker than an F1 car, VW says) and has a top speed of 240km/h.

Its batteries can be recharged in under 20 minutes using glycerol-fueled generators. Looking like a Le Mans racer, the IDR is built around a carbon fibre monocoque chassis and steel rollcage and weighs just 1100kg, including Dumas.

Mechanical grip from sticky Michelin 31/71-18 tyres, as used by Porsche Cup teams, kept the IDR pinned to the surface. And to make sure people and animals could hear the virtually silent IDR arriving at warp speed, it had to be fitted with a 120dB siren!

UNLIKE INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES, ELECTRIC MOTORS DON’T START GASPING AT HIGH ALTITUDES; THEY DON’T NEED AIR

WHAT IS PIKES PEAK?

They call it the Race to the Clouds, a 20km hillclimb to the summit of one of the highest mountains in the Colorado Rockies, named after explorer Zebulon Pike. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has been running since 1916 and, until the 2012 event, involved a mixed surface of tarmac and gravel. Now it’s a fully paved ribbon of terror up to the finish line at 4302m above sea level. Entrants have to tackle 156 corners, some with sheer drops if they step too far out of line, and 1440m of total incline. Sebastien Loeb set the previous record time of 8:13.878sec in a 652kW Peugeot 208 T16 in 2013. The old electric (Alternate Fuel) record of 8:57.118sec was set by Rhys Millen in a Drive eO PPo3 in 2015.

VOLKSWAGEN IDR vs PIKES PEAK