In recent weeks Volkswagen wowed the motorsports world when it conquered Pikes Peak. Its electric ID R made the climb of the world's highest car race in under eight minutes, setting a new all-time record for the course.
This was the brand's second attempt at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), and came just over 30 years after its first. 1987's version was much more conventional than the bespoke ID R, based as it was on the second generation of Volkswagen Golf. Humble origins, but Pikes Peak demands special vehicles.
The PPIHC "Race to the Clouds" poses a number of unique challenges to cars. Even the start line is more than 2,800 metres above sea level, 500m higher than the highest track in Formula One.
At this sort of elevation, car engines can struggle. An internal combustion engine is little more than an air pump, combining its fuel with around 14 times as much air in order to burn it. At high altitudes the air is thinner and engines can't take in enough air to work properly, so power falls. The effect is noticeable even at Pikes Peak's start line, to say nothing of the finish line, 1,440 metres higher up.
Of course electric cars like the ID R don't have this issue, but the petrol cars of the 1980s certainly did. One solution is forced induction. As turbochargers compress air, they can inject the right amount into the cylinders. However, this only ameliorates the effect, and high power turbo engines (especially in the 1980s) were renowned for being peaky.
So a number of Pikes Peak entries adopted the unusual answer of twin-engined cars. Volkswagen was among them, and the Golf Bimotor was born.
Each of the Golf's engines was a regular 1.8-litre, 16-valve unit from the GTI. Helped along by a KKK turbocharger, the Golf could produce 321bhp from a single engine, with the entire powertrain delivering over 600bhp. The front engine drove the front wheels, while the mid-mounted engine drove the rears, each mounted longitudinally. There was a Hewland gearbox for each engine and a differential lock for each axle.
VW replaced the Golf's body parts with composites, reducing kerb weight to 1,020kg despite the twin-engined setup. That gave the car sprightly performance on the gravel that made up the course of the day, with 60mph coming up in just over three seconds.
Klaus-Joachim - or "Jochi" - Kleint drove the car, just as he had driven earlier, less powerful versions. At the halfway spot, six miles in, Kleint was the fastest car on the course, even heading off Walter Rohrl in an Audi Quattro S1. But we'll never know who would have been fastest as while Rohrl beat the course record by over 20 seconds, the Golf didn't finish.
With just 400 yards to go, the Golf suffered a suspension failure and Kleint had to bring the car to a stop within sight of the chequered flag.
Volkswagen built the 2018 ID R to settle this score, which it did with some flourish. The cars are, appropriately, together in the Main Paddock.