Thirty years ago Volkswagen took on the infamous Race to the Clouds at Pikes Peak in Colorado with a bizarre twin-engined Golf – the car retired within sight of the finish. Now VW is back and this time it’s…electric.
Shown here for the first time is the bespoke battery-powered racer that VW believes will set a record on the 20km (12.4-mile) course, which rises 1,440 metres (4,724ft) up the side of a mountain and which has been challenging daredevil drivers since 1916.
VW’s first all-electric racer, being developed by Volkswagen Motorsport and technical boffins in Wolfsburg, is an all-wheel driver with what VW says will be innovative battery and drive technology.
The teaser image of the car so far released shows a closed-cockpit racer the styling of which is totally dominated by massive front spoiler and rear wing – the antithesis of the surprisingly standard-looking 1987 Golf with its engines front and rear.
The new record attempt is scheduled for 24 June 2018. The hillclimb, which has been all-asphalt since 2012, has become popular with electric vehicles in recent years thanks to their natural advantage over petrol cars in being able to develop full power at high altitude; the top of the mountain is 4,300 metres (14,000 ft) above sea level.
VW will be out to beat the current fastest time in the electric prototype class. That stands at 8 minutes 57.118 seconds, set in 2016 by Rhys Millen. Battery-powered cars have been getting ever closer to the outright record, set in 2013 by rally champion Sebastien Loeb in the Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak car, at 8:13.878. It seems only a matter of time before an electric car beats that; in 2015 all class honours went to battery vehicles.
The high profile record attempt is an important staging point as VW reinvents itself as an electric car company. It pledges to have 23 all-electric models in the showrooms by 2025. Manufacturers see what is one of the world’s most demanding motorsport challenges as the ultimate proving ground for upcoming electric technology.
Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets said: “The project is an important milestone in our new motorsport orientation, and the extreme stress test will give us important findings that will benefit future development.”