• The Volkswagen I.D. R Is The Fastest Car Ever Around The Goodwood Hillclimb Course

One year after setting the fastest EV time, Romain Dumas smashes the all-time record during the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed

Volkswagen continues to impress us with its I.D. R race car, the moving technology lab of the giant from Wolfsburg, one that’s been created to break records and, in the process, prove to the world that Volkswagen’s EVs will knock everybody out of the park. Last weekend, during the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed Romain Dumas driving a revised version of the I.D. R did just that, making every other car that has ever run on Lord March’s Hillclimb course seem pedestrian as he smashed the all-time record set 20 years ago in a full-blown Formula 1 car.

There are still many that will never bring themselves to even accept electric cars as the way forward, let alone try and like them. While this is true, it’s also true that cars like Volkswagen’s I.D. R are surely turning heads among even the most hardcore fans of the old-school internal combustion engine. This car has, in the space of little over 12 months, smashed the all-time record at the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb and then did the same around the Nurburgring-Nordschleife with a time fast enough to make it the second fastest car around that track ever. That it also broke the EV record at Goodwood last year seems almost moot given what Dumas did this year with the car.

The old record was set back in 1999 by Nick Heidfeld

The Volkswagen I.D. R Is The Fastest Car Ever Around The Goodwood Hillclimb Course
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The Goodwood Festival of Speed, an event created by Lord March back in 1993, is as much about parading some of the world’s most incredible road cars and race cars as is about driving as fast as possible down the 1.16-mile-long Hillclimb course that stretches across the Lord’s property in West Sussex. Each year, dozens of cars tackle the course, some slowly and some quick and, for the second year in a row, the fastest car is one that did not harm the environment at all during its runs - the Volkswagen I.D. R.

In 2018, Dumas arrived at Goodwood off the footsteps of dominating the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb. The Frenchman, who’d previously won the event three different times, completed the 12.42-mile ’Race To The Clouds’ in just 7:57.148, a whopping 15 seconds quicker than Sebastien Loeb had done in 2013 aboard a modified Peugeot 2018 T16.

The car he drove at Goodwood as, virtually, unaltered. It still featured all the scuffs and dirt from Pikes Peak, and the drivetrain was identical: dual electric motors (one on each axle) combined for a total output of 671 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque.

Although the car weighed 2,225 pounds, it could reach 60 mph from a standstill in 2.25 mph and accelerated all the way to 130 mph.

Dumas put it to good use and completed the run on Sunday - 0.8 seconds slower than the best he managed that weekend - in 43.86 seconds.It was about half a second quicker than the next fastest car, the NIO EP9 driven by Peter Dumbreck. It was also 2.6 seconds quicker than the fastest gas-guzzling car, the amazing Judd-powered BMW M3 E36 that was once owned by the late, great Georg Plasa.

The result made the Volkswagen I.D. R the fastest car at Goodwood last year and, also, the fastest EV ever.

The result was officialized as Dumas recorded the time during Sunday’s timed shootout. As a side note, this is something that could play havoc with this year’s record, but I’ll talk more about this below.

The Volkswagen I.D. R Is The Fastest Car Ever Around The Goodwood Hillclimb Course
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After conquering one of the world’s shortest hill climb courses and one of the longest, Volkswagen Motorsport turned its head towards the world’s longest permanent road course, the Nurburgring-Nordschleife that wraps around the Eifel Mountains in the western part of Germany. To meet this new challenge, the aerodynamic kit of the I.D. R was comprehensively modified as some downforce had to be shaved off since the Nordschleife also features some long straight bits.

In its Nurburgring specification, the I.D. R was supposedly able to reach 167 mph although the power and torque figures remained the same.

The way the batteries delivered power was slightly altered although the length of a lap - 12.93 miles - is almost identical to the length of the Pikes Peak hill climb course. On paper, Dumas had to go quicker than 115 mph on average during his fast lap to beat the existing EV record and he more than acquited himself of the job at hand.

With an average speed of 128.6 mph, Dumas clocked in a 6:05.336, almost a full minute quicker than the NIO EP9 that managed a 7:05.120 and almost six seconds quicker than Stefan Bellof’s record run from 1983. That mesmerizing performance had been the benchmark until Porsche’s Timo Bernhard blew it out of the water in 2018 aboard the Porsche 919 Evo.

The Volkswagen I.D. R Is The Fastest Car Ever Around The Goodwood Hillclimb Course
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It was this modified I.D. R that Volkswagen brought to the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed although the Germans actually went and played a bit with the power delivery and had the batteries operate in ’Sprint’ mode, offering all of their juice for a much shorter and much more intense run. On Friday, during the first timed runs, Dumas reeled in a 41.18-second run, already enough to beat the 20-year-old record set by Nick Heidfeld behind the wheel of a McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13 from 1998, a 41.6. The Frenchman was obviously helped by both the more urgent power delivery and the car’s new-for-the-Nurburgring F1-style drag reduction system.

Its average speed was 120 mph, but it was only clocked at 128 mph when crossing the finish line, 10 mph down on the fastest car on Friday.

After achieving the desired result so early in the weekend, Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport’s director, declared himself relieved. "We didn’t expect to do it so early, but I also don’t wish it had happened on the last run [on Sunday] because [what] if something goes wrong?" He then added that "Now we can work tomorrow afternoon and Sunday afternoon a little bit for a different feeling. Still, apparently, there are some things we can improve to try and get under this 41 [second time]. We have to give ourselves a new target."

Dumas, who said last year that the biggest problem regarding the surface of the Goodwood Hillclimb course is that it gets dirtied up due to the other cars that run on it, said on Friday that "it was a little bit stressful with the weather [forecast] for the rest of the weekend, so we tried to push today, but tomorrow I hope we can go a little bit quicker." He also admitted that he’d like to break into the 40s and, the next day, he actually did much more than that.

The Volkswagen I.D. R Is The Fastest Car Ever Around The Goodwood Hillclimb Course
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During the qualifying run on Saturday, the 41-year-old Dumas incredibly ran the first sub-40-second dash around the course, besting even his own predictions.

His time? a barely believable 39.9 seconds. But the weather, which had been kind with the fans and the competitors on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, decided enough is enough and the skies opened on Sunday, the day of the timed shootout. Before that, though, Dumas finished a run in 42.32 - enough to be 5.5 seconds than the second fastest car but not enough to beat Heidfeld’s time which was recorded during the shootout on Sunday. A second run was not possible due to the rain that soaked the track, although Dumas did entertain the crowd and completed a second run in the wet without a windscreen wiper.

This is where the debate begins.

Due to the changing conditions, Dumas wasn't even able to match his pace on Friday, let alone that on Saturday and, as such, didn't officially beat Heidfeld's time.

I know you’ve probably already read a million titles just like this one right here, but the fact of the matter is that the quicker times were recorded during timed but, ultimately, unofficial runs. If you dive deep in the history of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, you’ll find that this isn’t the first unofficial records and there have also been unofficial records set for other categories. For instance, in 2015, BAC claimed that its Mono supercar - then sporting a new 2.5-liter engine - was the fastest road-going machine ever to race down the course, the onboard telemetry showing that it’d completed the run on Sunday in 47.9 seconds, some 1.3 seconds faster than the best time for a production car (at the time) of 49.27 seconds set by Jann Mardenborough in a Nissan GT-R (R35) Nismo.

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Also, if you check this list of the fastest five cars to have ever been officially timed on the course, you’ll see that the I.D. R’s run from 2018 is actually the fourth fastest time while the one Dumas did this year is the second quickest. Which is the third? 2002 British Hillclimb Champion Graeme Wight, Jr.’s Gould GR51 that ran a 42.90.

You may be wondering by now how come nobody beat Heidfeld’s 1999 run in two decades. Well, for starters, it’s especially bonkers - as you’ll see for yourself if you watch (or re-watch) the footage of a then-22-year-old Nick Heidfeld muscling Mika Hakkinen’s championship-winning car through the very narrow and twisty bits of a course. That Adrian Newey-penned McLaren is, simply put, dancing although the road surface is perfectly dry.

The Volkswagen I.D. R Is The Fastest Car Ever Around The Goodwood Hillclimb Course
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It's scarcely believable that he didn't go off with all that power behind him motivating a car that topped out in 1998 at 219 mph down the back straight at Hockenheim (in the track's old configuration).

The MP4-13 was a prodigiously good car, despite the somewhat unreliable Mercedes-Benz-developed engine in the middle. It weighed just 1,322 pounds with liquids and driver aboard and, with 780 horsepower on tap from that V-10 engine, it won nine of the 16 races it contested in ’98. Hakkinen won on eight different occasions while team-mate David Coulthard also bagged one victory as Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher struggled to catch up.

Following Heidfeld’s eye-opening run in 1999, the organizers thought better about allowing F1 cars to run at full chat during the Shootout. A ban was later imposed although some daring drivers did ignore it and went at it as hard as they could. Point in case, Allan McNish in the 2002 Toyota TF102. He reeled in a 41.56 that would’ve been enough to beat Heidfeld’s time, but it’s not an officially recognized time. Since then, the organizers have stopped timing current F1 cars altogether, and all that the drivers do is rev the engines a bit, do some burnouts and some donuts, and then go home. It’s all in the name of safety, of course, although I can’t help but feel a bit sad about it all.

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Then again, don’t you just love it that a howling V-10-engined F1 car is, for another 12 months at least, still the fastest car to have ever been (officially) timed at Goodwood? It says nothing about the progress that’s been made in the past 20 years, of course, but it’s just cool that there’s a car that can still make you shiver as it flashes by you at the top of the standings. Not to say that the I.D. R’s rocketship precision and bullet-like acceleration isn’t amazing but, with the soundtrack that it posses, it’ll never be as dramatic. Let’s hope for clear skies next year and a return of the Volkswagen Motorsport squad then!

Further reading

2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak.

Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Breaks Electric Record at Goodwood FOS
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Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Breaks Electric Record at Goodwood FOS

Romain Dumas and the Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Racer Shatter the Pikes Peak Time Attack Record
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Romain Dumas and the Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Racer Shatter the Pikes Peak Time Attack Record

Michael Fira
Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read full bio
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