The Volkswagen ID.R Just Slaughtered the Nurburgring - Here’s How Fast
The NIO is no longer the fastest electric car around the Nordschleife and it’s been beaten by 40 secondsby Michael Fira, on
Do you hear it? It’s the Volkswagen PR machine stomping the ground and announcing far and wide that the halo car of the I.D. family has just annihilated the Nurburgring-Nordschleife circuit in Germany and, in the process, put a new benchmark lap time for EVs. The time? A 6:05.336 after many tryout laps and other tests that have commenced in April. Is it noteworthy? Most certainly. Is it as noteworthy as VW would want you to believe? Not really. Bear with me to see what I’m talking about.
Last year, Volkswagen sent shockwaves around the world when Frenchman Romain Dumas claimed victory and shattered the previous all-time record set by rally legend Sebastien Loeb in 2013 at the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb. Already an overall winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours race and a three-time winner of the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, Dumas pulled the feat aboard Volkswagen’s cutting-edge I.D.-R, a purpose-built prototype made for the Race to the Clouds. He followed that up by raising the bar on Lord March’s driveway and setting a new EV record during the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Since late last year, we’ve heard that the German giant is after the record and it all came down now. The NIO EP9’s reign is no more.
Romain Dumas is the electrified King of the Nurburgring
The VAG Group currently has a stranglehold on the Nurburgring-Nordschleife, the world’s longest and, arguably, most storied road course. Measuring 12.93 miles (without the GP track added to it), the Nordschleife has been around since the pre-War World II days and, at the time, it also used to have a baby brother - the Sudschleife. In the early days, there used to be races organized on a giant combined loop that brought together the Sudschleife and the Nordschleife but, due to being rather tighter than the Nordschleife, the Sudschleife soon began to see little action besides bike racing before being abandoned completely and falling into disrepair.
Nowadays, due to the nature of the track, not many series actually race at the Nordschleife, the bulk of them choosing the FIA Grade 1 GP track which is, frankly, a generic Herrmann Tilke-designed track that has nothing to do with the Northern loop. But, having said that, there are some series that still tackle the former host of the German Grand Prix (until that horrendous crash that almost claimed Niki Lauda’s life in 1976). There is, for instance, the VLN, the German Endurance Championship that is unique in the sense that all the races are held at the Nordschleife. The now-defunct World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) that morphed into the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) acted as a support race for the most important racing event of the year on the track nicknamed ’Green Hell’ by three-time F1 World Driver’s Champion Jackie Stewart: the Nurburgring 24 Hours.
When Volkswagen decided to come to the Nurburgring and smash the existing EV record, the automaker booked the talents of the man that delivered the goods at Pikes Peak, Romain Dumas.
As it happens, Dumas, a long-time Porsche factory driver, is also a four-time overall winner of the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring driving for the Manthey Racing team, so it’s safe to assume that he knows those 12.93 miles of twisty and tight tarmac like his living room. But even he needed months of preparation to get everything right, and that’s why VW was first seen testing at the venue as early as April. Initial runs at Oschersleben and Almeria, in Spain, were also done to shakedown the I.D.-R on Bridgestone tires that would be used for the record attempt.
At the time, Dumas admitted that long hours of computer simulations have helped engineers to better grasp the challenge of the Nurburgring but that changes have been made on the spot too, as nothing can match the real world environment. "The Nurburgring-Nordschleife has larger and more numerous bumps than the race tracks on which we have tested so far. So, we have concentrated on adapting the shock absorbers and the ride height to suit the unique characteristics of this track," Dumas said, quoted by Motorsport.com. By the time it appeared in the Eiffel Mountains, the I.D.-R was already sporting a new, blue-black, more in tune with Volkswagen Motorsport’s colors than the blank grey livery used last year.
The car's aerodynamic package also had to be changed because the Nurburgring not only requires a certain balance between drag and lack of drag since you've got both technical bits, very fast flowing bits, and flat out straight bits like the endless Dottinger Hohe.
A new rear wing was fitted to the tail section of the I.D.-R, one that featured extended swang neck arms which reached all the way back to the bottom of the hump of the monocoque. There were still winglets around the front, but the aero balance was changed.
On paper, however, the I.D.-R didn’t receive any mechanical help. It still featured two electric motors that combined to offer 670 horsepower (500 kW) and 553 pound-feet of torque for a 0-60 mph time of 2.25 seconds and a theoretical top speed of 167 mph. Of course, as the lap wore on, it was expected that Dumas would gently ease off to not run out of juice. In fact, due to the limited capacity of the battery pack that keeps alive the sub-2,425-pound car, Dumas didn’t even drive around for a full out-lap (or a full in-lap for that matter).
In its 'Ring specification, the I.D.-R also received an F1-inspired energy recuperation system that's able to recuperate up to 20% of the braking energy which is key since the lap is so long, about four times as long as a normal lap on a GP track (other than Spa-Francorchamps, of course).
Volkswagen announced it wants to add the EV Nordschleife record to its list of accolades in May when we heard that, if Dumas tied together a good lap, he should be averaging almost 115 mph over those 12.93 miles. To put it into perspective, the average speed of the fastest lap in qualifying for last year’s 24 Hours of the Nurburgring was 116 mph, and that was the fastest ever qualifying lap around the combined course. Naturally, the average speed would’ve been slightly higher on the shorter course driven by Dumas, but it goes to show also how fast, modern GT3 cars (the fastest allowed to race in the 24 Hours race) are. Anyway, Dumas would easily surpass this average speed as well as Stefan Bellof’s average speed of 125.6 mph.
The record attempt in itself took place over the course of a couple of days during which time Dumas gathered laps aboard the I.D.-R to familiarize himself with a car that has a lot more downforce than the Porsche 991 GT3-R he usually drives around the Nurburgring. "The Nurburgring-Nordschleife is my favorite racetrack. Although I have driven thousands of kilometers there, it always gives me goosebumps every time I leave the pit lane for the first time," said Dumas in a VW press release. The 41-year-old finally gave it the beans - or, in his own words, "pushed quite hard - after a few test runs meant to see if the setup was right in terms of suspension travel, damping, ride height, wing angles, and so on and so forth.
The lap itself, as you'll see from the video posted by VW Motorsport is, actually, very anti-climatic.
All you see is the I.D.-R running as if it’s on rails, Dumas barely ever clattering the curbs, all while accompanied by the whine of the electric system. The car topped out at 167 mph but, on the Dottinger Hohe, Dumas cruised at about 147 mph towards the finish line. The result? A blister 6:05.336 that equates to an average speed of 128.6 mph. At the finish line, the checkered flag was waved by none other than VW ambassador and legendary second-generation racing driver Hans Joachim Stuck who is a Ringmeister in his own right.
As everybody applauds Volkswagen’s record-breaking run, I took a step back and gave it a bit of thought. Is it amazing? Surely. Merely fitting a car with an electric system that can power it around the Nordschleife for a full lap at an average speed of almost 130 mph is astonishing. But, given Volkswagen’s apparently limitless budget and limitless willingness to clean up its act after Dieselgate, isn’t all this to be expected? Of course, the German giant from Wolfsburg was going to succeed in its attempt to take home the EV record at the Green Hell. I think nobody was in doubt and the only question mark hovered around the exact time that Dumas would record as people hoped he’d get close to Timo Bernhard’s balls-to-the-wall run last year.
The 2018 Volkswagen I.D.-R’s record run is amazing but not incredible
So, let’s look at the figures.
The I.D.-R, a car that weighs less than an Alfa Romeo 4C and that is urged on by 670 horsepower, and over 550 pound-feet of torque took away the record from a car that develops 1,341 horsepower and a staggering 4,671 pound-feet of torque.
An incredible achievement, right? Well, not really.
The NIO EP9, the car that held the EV record up until this week with a lap of 7:05.12 is, at the end of the day, classified as a road-going hypercar. Yes, I know, there’s still some uncertainty over where you can register the EP9 but, in spite of this, it surely isn’t a one-off, purpose-built prototype with a humongous wing out back, generous winglets around the nose section, and a tiny cockpit for one driver to nestle in.
I’m not trying to say the EP9 is a cigar on wheels, its luscious body with carefully incorporated active wings and underbody venturis does develop up to 5,395 pounds of downforce at 159 mph, and it is mind-bogglingly fast (0-62 mph in 2.7 seconds and 0-124 mph in 7.1 seconds), but the I.D.-R was specifically re-engineered to tackle this track. The EP9 was not. It came to conquer the Circuit of the Americas in Texas looking just the same, for instance. Granted, 40 seconds are 40 seconds and, even on the Nordschleife, that’s a month and a day in terms of how big the gap is between Peter Dumbreck’s run in late 2016 and Dumas’ run this week.
But, again, it’s a gap we all should’ve seen coming. That’s what happens when you pit a road car, even an extreme one that’s still among the fastest three road cars around the Nordschleife ever, against a thoroughbred race car built with no compromise (or rulebook) in mind. This leads me to point out that the gap between the I.D.-R’s lap time and that of the 919 Evo is quite big.
Sure, the I.D.-R has become the second fastest car in the Eiffel Mountains ever, but the unapologetically insane hybrid 919 is a few steps ahead, a few more than the VW execs would've hoped, I'd venture to guess.
The 919, too, was a car built for the extremes. It was launched last year during Porsche’s year-long celebrations on its 70th anniversary, and its target was simple: conquer some of the world’s best-well-known tracks. With Timo Bernhard behind the wheel, it managed to put a 5:19.55, a whole 51.58 seconds faster than Bellof’s 1983 record. The I.D.-R was only six seconds quicker. But the 919 Evo with all of its 720 horsepower didn’t have to worry about carrying batteries around, you’ll say, and that’s true - and it’s also true that it was 63% more efficient than the WEC/Le Mans-winning 919 of 2017 - but it still had a battery-based hybrid system and the 2.0-liter V-4 engine in the middle.
So, we’ve so far established that the embarrassing defeat that Volkswagen has dealt to NIO isn’t that embarrassing and that the gap between the two fastest cars on the ’Ring is big no matter what EV fans will say. Before I move on to the next point in what you may already call a "rant", let me also point out that Volkswagen ran a competition in conjunction with the racing simulator ’Raceroom’ that simulated the Nordschleife together with the Volkswagen I.D.-R but, instead of Dumas, put you in the driver’s seat. The point was to see how fast the car could go in the game and, thus, aid Volkswagen in its quest to beat the actual record. At the moment, the fastest lap in the game is a 5:52.997 by German simracer Julian Kunze. While there’s no video showing Julian’s lap, you can compare Dumas’ real-life lap with a 5:55.7 lap in-game recorded by Austin Ogonoski.
I guess the differences comes from the fact that Dumas had to coast quite a bit down the straights in his lap while, in the game, the loss of electric power may not be replicated as faithfully which would allow you to drive with the right foot planted more than you actually can do in real life (without running out of power altogether). And, maybe too, there are certain complexities of the track that aren’t there in the game, but the track was 3D-scanned so it should be pretty much the same.
Talking about track differences reminded me I should move on with my "rant." My last point refers back to the 1983 record. I’m making the same case I made last year when Bernhard broke the record in the first place, namely that the two laps should never be compared and that Bellof’s lap remains insane and will never genuinely be bettered. Here’s why.
For starters, let’s get the obvious facts out of the way.
Fact Number 1: both the 919 Evo and the I.D.-R from Volkswagen are one-off prototypes that weren't built to compete in any racing series.
The Pikes Peak Hillclimb doesn’t count as a series since you can bring just about anything in the Unlimited class which is where Loeb also entered his 1,000 horsepower/ton 208 GTI back in 2013. On the other hand, the works-entered Porsche 956 driven by Stefan Bellof and Derek Bell was a fully homologated racing car that adhered to the rules of Group C.
It was powered by the tried and tested Type-935 2.65-liter, turbocharged, flat-six, producing approximately 635 horsepower (depending on boost pressure). 1983 was the first year when Porsche opened its doors and allowed privateers to purchase and campaign the 956, but the factory cars were always the ones to get all the updates first, as it should be, so Bellof’s 956 was arguably the fastest one in the field along with the other Rothmans-sponsored car shared by Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass.
Bellof was known for playing with the boost knob on the dashboard, requesting more oomph at will. This was troublesome since, in those years, Group C was a fuel formula or, in other words, you could only sip a certain amount of fuel every hour. If went over your fuel allocation limit, you’d get penalized. That’s why, there was sort of a gentleman’s agreement to never play with the boost knob during races, but Bellof routinely did that in his manic opening stints where he’d gap the other works car and everybody else with ease, leaving Bell to crawl in his stint for fear of a penalty.
You can be sure that, on May 28th, 1983, Bellof turned the boost knob to 11 as he embarked on his lap, dashing past slower cars (both GTs and achingly pedestrian touring cars) at an amazing rate of speed towards eternity engrave on that 6:11.131. He was some six seconds quicker than team-mate Mass but, looking back; the heroics didn’t help him much. He’d go on to crash heavily in the early running of the race after the No. 2 956 he was driving took off at Pflanzgarten and somersaulted a few times before coming to a rest at the side of the road. Luckily, chassis #007 wasn’t a write-off and, later that year, it was driven to victory in the Finnish Circuit Racing series by rally star Henri Toivonen.
So, take everything into account: the fact that the 956 was a homologated car, not a one-off, the fact that Bellof had to pedal his car on an open track with dozens of cars around, and the obvious fact that tire technology, suspension technology, damping technology, and aerodynamics have moved a lot in 36 years. Taking all these into account, as well as the changes to the Nurburgring’s surface and its curbs, are those six seconds the I.D.-R "has" over Bellof’s 6:11 that impressive? I think not. I may change my mind when Volkswagen successfully enters the I.D.-R in a racing series, but that’ll never happen.
The 2018 Volkswagen I.D.-R is a legendary machine nonetheless
To round this piece off, I must say that this doesn’t mean that the I.D.-R isn’t a landmark in the automotive world. It really shows what can be achieved with this technology, and it gives us all hope of a non-boring electric future. I mean, any car that can delve under the psychological eight-minute mark with a 7:57.15 is impressive.
That's 15 seconds below the time recorded by Loeb in his 876 horsepower Peugeot and almost 60 seconds below Rhys Millen's previous EV benchmark.
Also, let’s not forget that Volkswagen flexed its muscles (and almost went into the haybales) at the Goodwood FOS in 2018. There, on one of the tightest hill climb courses in the world, Dumas was the fastest in the timed shootout with a 43.86 seconds. This was, also, the fastest time ever recorded by an EV around Lord March’s driveway, bettering the old record by 3.48 seconds and coming to within 2.26 seconds off the all-time record set by Nick Heidfeld with a McLaren MP4/13 Formula 1 car in 1999.
Talking about records, let’s take a brief look at the fastest production car times. The one to beat is still Lamborghini’s 6:44:97 achieved by the ludicrous Aventador SVJ which is almost a full second quicker than the NIO EP9. Third on the leaderboard is the 690 horsepower Porsche 911 GT2 RS with a 6:47.30 (the GT2 RS with the Manthey Racing Package comprising KW Competition three-way race suspension, larger wing, and dive planes managed a 6:40, but that’s not an official record since the MR Package isn’t a factory option).
The all-time top five is completed by the open-top Radical SR8 LM (with a 6:48 dead) and the Lamborghini Huracan Performante that was four seconds slower than the SR8 LM but also four faster than the non-LM version (both driven by Michael Vergers). Recently, the FWD record fell to the feet of Renault and its mad Megane RS Trophy-R that lapped the track in just 7:40.1, some 3.7 seconds quicker than the Honda Civic Type R. A rivaling Japanese brand, Toyota, was the one that held the EV track record before NIO.
The Radical chassis was modified by Toyota’s Motorsport Group and fitted with an electric drivetrain that cranked out 800 pound-feet of torque. On road tires, the sports car clocked a lap in 7:47.79 eight years ago. Other fast and eco-friendly cars on the Nordschleife are the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Electric Drive that, with 740 horsepower and 737 pound-feet on tap, recorded a 7:56.23 lap in 2013. That lap was a whopping 12 seconds quicker than the best Audi could muster with its R8 E-Tron (8:09.09) just 12 months prior, in 2012.
|Volkswagen ID R||6:05.336|
|McLaren P1 LM||6:43.2|
|Lamborghini Aventador SVJ||6:44.97|
|NextEV Nio EP9||6:45.90|
|Porsche 911 GT2 RS||6:47.3|
|Radical SR8 LM||6:48|
|Lamborghini Huracan Performante||6:52.01|
|Porsche 918 Spyder||6:57|
|Lamborghini Aventador SV||6:59.73|
|Nissan GT-R Nismo||7:08.68|
|Mercedes-AMG GT R||7:10.92|
Read our full review on the 2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak.