Heading to America’s Mountain with a wing and a dream

In case you hadn’t heard, Volkswagen is pivoting to a greener, more eco-friendly approach to building its cars, offering up plans to produce a host of new all-electric models over the next several years. Spearheading this new direction is a range of vehicles dubbed the I.D. family, which includes concepts like the Buzz minivan and Crozz four-door crossover. However, doesn’t think the I.D. range will be the death of go-fast VW’s - quite the opposite, in fact, as VW is also prepping a little something labeled I.D. for the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado this June. It’s called the I.D. R, and it’s the company’s first-ever all-electric race car, purpose-built to tackle the Race to the Clouds. If ever there was a worthwhile application of VW’s EV tech, this is it. Mind the wing.

Continue reading to learn more about the Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak.

Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Exterior And Aero

- * Huge aero package makes the most of thin air
- * Cornering speed over top speed
- * Produces enough downforce to drive upside down
- * First tested aero setup in half-scale model
- * Used 3D printing to quickly prototype
- * Used software simulations for low-pressure tests

2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Exterior
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And, as you can plainly see, the Volkswagen team is using every stipulation it can to walk away the victor, creating this absolutely ming-boggling aero package.

For all those Pikes Peak initiates out there, let me start by describing some of the challenges VW is facing here. The course starts at 9,000 feet, and by the time competitors reach the end, they’re an astonishing 14,115 feet above sea level.

At that altitude, the air is extremely thin, which has a huge impact on the aero and the cooling. In fact, even the 5,000 or so feet between the start and finish line can have a dramatic effect on a racer’s performance.

Thankfully, the Pikes Peak Hill Climb rules and regulations provide a broad range of solutions to meet these challenges. And, as you can plainly see, the Volkswagen team is using every stipulation it can to walk away the victor, creating this absolutely ming-boggling aero package.

Indeed, as a racer purpose built for a run at Pikes Peak, every side of the I.D. R was was tweaked and tuned to contend with the lack of atmosphere.

“The entire chassis is designed to generate as much downforce as possible, without causing too much aerodynamic drag,” said François-Xavier Demaison, the Technical Director at VW and the I.D. R Pikes Peak Project Manager.

VW is estimating that the car will max out at around 155 mph during its the run up to the top of Pikes Peak. That’s blindingly quick for the narrow switchbacks of the course, but as you might expect, the I.D. R could certainly go much faster on a flat, straight track. However, flat and straight isn’t the name of the game here, so instead, the team concentrated on extracting as much cornering speed as possible from the aero package.

2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Exterior
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VW is estimating that the car will top out at around 155 mph during its the run up to the top of Pikes Peak.

“The altitude on Pikes Peak means that the air we are driving through is on average 35 percent thinner. As a result, we lose 35 percent of our downforce compared to a racetrack at sea level,” Demaison explains. “The huge rear wing allows us to compensate for some of this lost downforce.”

The I.D. R Pikes Peak is certainly an impressive thing to behold, looking like some futuristic slot car thanks to its extreme design. Impossibly low, wide, and muscular, the car looks like it could drive upside down, given the right track. Which it theoretically can.

“The imaginative aerodynamic development means that we still achieve maximum downforce greater than the weight of the car during the hill climb,” Demaison says.

To find the right package, the car’s set-up was first tested as a half-scale model in the wind tunnel, after which the full-size version went to test at the Porsche development center in Weissach.

The whole thing was created surprisingly quickly, as VW utilized 3D printing techniques to rapidly prototype and produce several new aero components in a very short amount of time. VW says it made as many as 2,000 individual aero components over the course of development.

2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Exterior
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Of course, while wind tunnels and rolling roads work great at sea level, how do you simulate the low air pressure of Pikes Peak?

Of course, while wind tunnels and rolling roads work great at sea level, how do you simulate the low air pressure of Pikes Peak? After all, even though the I.D. R runs on electrons, it still needs a good amount of cooling power to keep its battery packs in tip-top shape.

Rather than add large intakes to the design, something that would add a lot of drag in the long run, Volkswagen instead used something called ANYS software simulations, which were utilized to recreate the high-altitude conditions the I.D. R would face. From these sims, the team found the right combination of parts to make the power it was seeking, all without actually bringing the car up to 14,000 feet above sea level.

Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Interior Spec

- * All-business carbon cockpit
- * OMP racing bucket
- * Battery pack rides shotgun
- * Romain Dumas to take the reins

2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Interior
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Much like the car, the driver too must be adequately prepared to handle the extreme altitude. Luckily, VW’s hired gun should be more than up to the task.

Inside this dedicated racing machine, the cockpit is all-business. Just a single passenger can fit, seated on the lefthand side and held in place by an OMP bucket seat and six-point racing harness. Carbon fiber pervades throughout, and the whole thing is bare and spartan.

A composite head brace keeps the driver’s helmet from shifting around when slinging through the switchbacks. The steering wheel is a squared carbon affair beset with a vast array of button and switches, plus a digital screen in the middle of it. Next to the driver is a large aluminum box, undoubtedly used to contain some of the powertrain components and even out the weight distribution.

Much like the car, the driver too must be adequately prepared to handle the extreme altitude and rigors of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Luckily, VW’s hired gun should be more than up to the task.

Taking the reins of this beast will be none other than Romain Dumas, the same French racing driver who’s resume includes wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours of Nurburgring, the 24 Hours of Spa, and the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Critically, Dumas also has a string of wins at Pikes Peak, including top honors in 2014, 2016, and 2017. Each of those victories was at the wheel of the Norma M20 RD, with a fastest run time of 8 minutes, 51.445 seconds recorded in 2016.

Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Drivetrain And Performance

- * Lithium-ion battery pack
- * Dual-motor drive, AWD grip
- * 671 horsepower, 479 pound-feet of torque
- * Includes heavy kinetic energy recovery
- * Carbon construction keeps it at 2,425 pounds
- * 0 to 60 mph in 2.25 seconds

2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Exterior
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The Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak produces upwards of 671 horsepower, which isn’t as much as you might think next to rivals like the Drive eO PP100.

At this point, it should be more than obvious that the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is best known for its extreme high-altitude race conditions, and as such, each team must prepare in unique ways to contend with the low air pressure.

Beyond the aero setup, some teams must also consider how the altitude will affect engine performance. After all, with such little air to stuff into the cylinders, power outputs are dramatically affected, even between the start and finish lines.

And it’s for that reason that all-electric racers have a leg up on the dino juice-powered competition.

Motivating the I.D. R is a large lithium-ion battery pack, which is mounted as low as possible in the chassis to provide the car with a low center of gravity. All the juice is then routed to a dual electric motor setup, which lays it down at both axles for a heady dose of AWD grip.

All told, the Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak produces upwards of 671 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. That’s a lot, but placed next to rivals like the Drive eO PP100, which makes upwards of 1,595 horsepower of output, the I.D. R might be a bit outgunned.

Still, it’s about quality, not quantity here, and VW is looking for maximum efficiency in that respect. The automaker even says that around 20 percent of the electric energy required to run the racer is generated during the drive itself, which makes energy recovery during braking crucial, transferring kinetic energy created when applying the binders over to the battery packs, which is then used to once again power the wheels.

What’s more, thanks to all the carbon bits, the car is extremely lightweight, even with the large battery packs and electric motors. Interestingly, Volkswagen also elected not to use too many exotic materials, as explained by Demaison: “The chassis, suspension, and safety structure of the I.D. R Pikes Peak are almost completely made of steel and aluminum.”

2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Exterior
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The whole thing, including the driver, is estimated at around 1,100 kg, or roughly 2,425 pounds.

Incredibly, the whole thing, including the driver, is estimated at around 1,100 kg, or roughly 2,425 pounds.

Properly motivated, VW expects this monster to go from 0 to 60 mph in about 2.25 seconds. The automaker is also quick to point out how that’s quicker than both a Formula 1 car and a Formula E car.

The high altitude is still an issue when it comes to keeping the batteries cool.

And even though the powerplant doesn’t require oxygen and explosions like a standard ICE, the high altitude is still an issue when it comes to keeping the batteries cool. However, the aero setup should keep it running at full power, as VW saw in its computer simulations.

If all goes according to plan, VW is shooting for a new class record, hitting the reset button on the current standing record of 8 minutes, 57.118 seconds set by Rhys Millen in 2016 at the wheel of the Drive eO PP100. Speaking of which…

Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Competition

Drive eO PP100

2015 Drive eO PP03 High Resolution Exterior
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This is the one to beat for Volkswagen. Producing 1,595 horsepower and 1,858 pound-feet of torque thanks to no less than seven YASA-400 electric motors, this thing is an absolute rocket ship. Putting it all to the ground is an advanced AWD system and mammoth 320/710R18 racing slicks from Hankook, while four-way adjustable shocks and electrically assisted power steering help it all turn. While the PP100 has a huge power advantage, the VW has a small weight advantage, undercutting the PP100’s rating of 1,200 kg (2,645 pounds) by a few hundred pounds.

Regardless, VW certainly has its work cut out for it, and placing the two cars side-by-side on paper; it looks like the race will be won or lost with the cornering speed the I.D R can achieve with those sizable wings.

Read our full review on the Drive eO PP100.

Final Thoughts

2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Exterior
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Although it’s classified as a prototype race car, the success of the I.D. R has repercussions for Volkswagen’s line of street cars as well.

“The four-wheel-drive racing car points to the sporting potential of the I.D. family of all-electric vehicles and is also the first step towards a closer relationship between Volkswagen R and Volkswagen Motorsport,” the German automaker explains.

The first model in the I.D. family range will be launched by the end of 2019, while as many as 20 new battery-powered vehicles are in the pipeline for release by the year 2025.

“We want to be at the forefront of electro-mobility with Volkswagen and the I.D. family,” said Dr. Frank Welsch, Volkswagen Member of the Board of Management. “Competing in the most famous hill climb in the world with the I.D. R Pikes Peak is a valuable test for the general development of electric cars.”

It should present quite the challenge. Pikes Peak is one of the oldest races in the U.S., with over 100 years of history to its name. Sporting 156 turns and 12.4 miles of switchbacks, the Race to the Clouds is known internationally for its technical corners and potentially deadly drop-offs.

Volkswagen last raced at Pikes Peak in 1985, 1986, and 1987, entering a dual-engined Golf that made upwards 652 horsepower - not too far off the I.D. R’s power levels. However, the Golf did not manage to take top honors.

“It is about time we settled the score,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director, Sven Smeets. “The I.D. R Pikes Peak represents an extremely exciting challenge for us, to show what is possible in motorsport with an electric drivetrain. The entire team behind our driver Romain Dumas is highly motivated to set a new record for electric cars.”

Will it happen? Tune in next month to find out, as TopSpeed covers the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, set to kick off on June 24th.

  • Leave it
    • * Car’s first time competing at the event
    • * Relatively low power levels
    • * Absurdly stiff competition

Further Reading

2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Exterior
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Volkswagen Tunes Aero Package for Run at Pikes Peak

2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Exterior
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Volkswagen’s I.D. R Pikes Peak Racer is Not For the Weak of Heart

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Read more Volkswagen news.

Press release

Volkswagen has named its latest motorsport project the I.D. R Pikes Peak. This all-electric prototype racing car will compete in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24 in Colorado.

The four-wheel-drive racing car points to the sporting potential of the I.D. family of all-electric vehicles and is also the first step towards a closer relationship between Volkswagen R and Volkswagen Motorsport.

The Volkswagen brand plans to offer more than 20 fully-electric cars by 2025. Manufacture of the first production model of the I.D. family is scheduled to start at the end of 2019 in Zwickau, Germany.

“We want to be at the forefront of electro-mobility with Volkswagen and the I.D. family,” says Volkswagen Member of the Board of Management with responsibility for Development, Dr. Frank Welsch. “Competing in the most famous hillclimb in the world with the I.D. R Pikes Peak is a valuable test for the general development of electric cars.”

Jürgen Stackmann, Member of the Board of Management with responsibility for Sales, Marketing and After Sales, adds: “Pikes Peak is without question the most iconic hillclimb in the world. The I.D. R project represents a fantastic opportunity for Volkswagen to change the conversation about e-mobility, both emotionally and from a sporting perspective.”

The international Pikes Peak hillclimb, also known as the “Race to the Clouds”, has been held since 1916 near Colorado Springs in the Rocky Mountains. The 12.4-mile route starts at just above 9,000 feet and climbs to the summit at 14,115 feet above sea level.

Volkswagen last entered the Pikes Peak hillclimb in 1987 with a spectacular dual-engine Golf, which generated an impressive 652 horsepower. However, the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer narrowly missed out on success.

“It is about time we settled the score,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director, Sven Smeets. “The I.D. R Pikes Peak represents an extremely exciting challenge for us, to show what is possible in motorsport with an electric drivetrain. The entire team behind our driver Romain Dumas is highly motivated to set a new record for electric cars.” The record in the electric prototype class currently stands at 8:57.118 minutes, set in 2016 by New Zealand’s Rhys Millen.

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