4 reasons why the VW ID.R is a big deal

With the electric ID.R race car, Volkswagen seems set to prove that neither altitude nor weight, straightaways nor curves, charging time nor battery density must befuddle a brilliantly sorted electric race car. Behind the hype of the ID.R is, in fact, a seriously big deal of a car. For some quick numbers, the ID.R weighs roughly 2400 pounds plus a driver, and makes the exhaust-spewing equivalent of 670.5 hp. It also hits 60 mph in a cool 2.25 seconds. 

In case your head’s spinning trying to keep the ID.R’s record(s) straight, or you’re unclear what exactly the thing is, we’re here to provide some context. 

The ID.R is making the most of its massive budget

VW IDR Pikes Peak

A sponsorship by one of the world’s largest automakers means options: both in technology and in the brains to engineer, manage, and invent that technology.  Official Pikes Peak photographer Larry Chen told us last year that the VW team had the largest budget in the history of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The team of brainiacs has put together two electric motors—one beside the driver and one behind the monocoque—a seriously fast charging system, and one gigantic rear wing to outfit this electric prototype (that, so far, doesn’t appear to be spec’d to any existing race series, unlike the Porsche 99X). 

There is some seriously good juju between VW’s PR department and the engineering team of the ID.R. Since only one car at a time holds a given record, it’s easier to remember records. (Bugatti is loving that at the moment.) Remembering standings in a race series is complex—we know Audi won the 2019 DTM manufacturers championship, but would someone recount the driver standings in light of the most recent weekend’s races? That’s less likely an off-the-top-of your head stat. “Did you know VW made this electric car that can beat an F1 car at Goodwood?” That, my friends, is a cocktail-friendly bit of trivia. 

It holds two records that will knock your socks off 

…no matter how favorably you feel about electric cars. The ID.R holds the absolute track record at the Goodwood Festival of Speed: 39.90 seconds for the 1.15-mile circuit. For comparison, a “final edition” Agera FE named Thor hammered out a 51.1-second run in 2018. The previous record was held for 20 years by Nick Heidfeld and his McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13

The ID.R broke the F1 car’s record by 1.7 seconds. 

So, the ID.R’s faster than a Formula 1 car… and it’s the fastest car ever to wind up the crags of Colorado’s Pikes Peak—at a time when the race isn’t getting any less dangerous. The Pikes Peak climb wasn’t simply another superlative in the ID.R’s cap; it was a demonstration of the advantages of electric cars. Simply put, electric cars don’t need to breathe. Oxygen density? Not a problem. The ID.R’s just as comfortable at Pike Peak’s 14,115 feet as it is as Goodwood’s hundred-or-so. Plus, the ID.R’s engineers proved they could spec the car for a sprint hillclimb, a 12.42-mile course covering over 4500 miles of elevation change, and the 12.9-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife.

Speaking of which…

The ID.R holds also two records that, previously, no one has known about

VW Tianmen Turns

The ID.R whirred its way to the most energy-efficient lap at the Nürburgring this summer in 2019. Yeah, it’s also the fastest electric car ever around the ’Ring as of June 2019, and thus does VW dodge the dichotomy of fast-is-wasteful, slow-is-efficient. Quoth Marc-Christian Bertram, Head of Electrics and Electronics at Volkswagen Motorsport: “The ID.R’s battery has a particularly high power density. It is not maximum range that is required, but rather the highest possible power output.” 

Though the second iteration is quite handsome, we’re guessing the first Leaf NISMO RC didn’t really send shivers up your spine. In fact, The super-Leaf’s stats testify to just how much automakers have invested in their electric race cars in the past seven years—for the tech, and for the brand cachet. Back in 2011, the first Nissan Leaf NISMO RC had a grand total of 80 kW, and the updated 2018 iteration put down 240 kW (roughly 326 hp). The ID.R? Still uses lithium-ion cells, but packs 500 kW (670.5 hp). That, plus the 99 hairpins of China’s Tianmen Mountain, will shiver anyone’s spine. 

The second obscure-yet-impressive record the ID.R totes is the very first record—of any automotive kind—at Tianmen Mountain. Romain Dumas took the wheel yet again—the same factory driver who ascended Pikes Peak and whipped around Goodwood with the ID.R. For the record, he’s having a great time: “The little information and testing we had beforehand made it a huge challenge. The road is incredibly narrow and winding, but the drive was unbelievable fun with the electric power of the ID.R.”

There’s a method to VW’s seeming PR madness, for you cynics out there. VW’s hitting its major markets. It’s slapped down records at a well-known course in America, the UK, and now, China—two continents historically obsessed with motorsports, and an up-and-coming third in which every other car sold (in 2018) is a VW. Yeah, China’s kinda a massive deal for VW. Read on, and discover it’s only logical the ID.R set a Chinese record wearing red livery. 

The ID.R is extremely color-coordinated

For its first stab at the Goodwood Festival of Speed hillclimb, and the subsequent, record-setting mountain climb up Pikes Peak, the ID.R wore a demure gray in homage to “the ID. family,” according to VW. We’re not entirely sure what that means, because this is definitely orange and this is definitely green, but did we catch the ID.R in race mode below (and it was indeed gray). 

For a split second I was the only thing in between Romain Dumas and his record with the VW I.D. R Pikes Peak.
Larry Chen

In 2019, the ID.R showed up in blue for it’s ’Ring and second FOS record runs to herald VW’s electric cars and its partner, blue, this time in reference to VW’s electric cars and, specifically, its performance brand Volkswagen R GmbH.

Electric record Nürburgring-Nordschleife

VW is rather proud that the ID.R set the Tianmen record wearing red, and it looks pretty fine. Red resonates with the Chinese venue and pays homage to VW’s “e-offensive” in China. (Honestly an “e-offensive” sounds like an onslaught of electric mice. Creepy.) Whatever the nomenclature, VW’s range of offerings for the Chinese market is aggressive, and it’s definitely electric: “Come 2020, Volkswagen brand will have a portfolio of 10 NEV models on the market in China, followed by the rollout of the fully-electric ID. product family, based on the innovative MEB platform,” Stephan Wöllenstein, Member of the Board of Management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand and CEO of Volkswagen Brand China says. 

With three continents and four records down, we wonder which legendary track or summit the revolutionary racer will put in its sights next.

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