Volkswagen I.D. R at 'Heaven's Gate' | POTW


As marketing wheezes go, the I.D. R is going to take some beating. When the emissions scandal finally hit Volkswagen like a tsunami in 2015, the decimation of its motorsport programme was among the knee-jerk reactions to the crisis. Carbon footprint aside, the firm was for a time allergic to anything which might have been perceived as a reason for it to publicly celebrate. For two years it effectively wore black armbands.

But following its unprecedented $2.8bn fine in 2017, the firm clearly began to ponder the requirement for a good news story. Among other much more expensive things - most of which are only just starting to come to fruition on the product front - some gum-chewing clever clogs dreamed up the I.D. R project with the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in mind. It was perfect because a) it was to be fully electric and therefore right on message, and b) it could be done relatively cheaply and easily thanks to the one-off nature of the event.

Practically speaking, much of the car was farmed out. Norma - a French prototype specialist with a proven track record of winning the event - effectively supplied the carbon fibre monocoque chassis while British firm Integral Powertrain provided the electric motors that would drive both axles. Volkswagen contributed the closed cockpit design (presumably having learnt a thing or two about it at Le Mans in Audi colours) and the testing/development experience of its presumably not-very-busy Motorsport division.

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The rest, as they say, is history. In front of an American audience the I.D. R smashed through its EV record target at Pikes Peak and became the first car to ever crack 8 minutes. Hugely encouraged by the triumph (and the resulting coverage) the prototype only required an aerodynamic tweak to shatter the electric car lap record at the Nurburgring, even managing to dip inside Stefan Bellof's immortal 1983 956 lap (an achievement that would have earned even more plaudits if Porsche hadn't knocked the best part of a minute off that time with the incomparable 919 Evo the year before).

It might have rested on its laurels there, but the team couldn't resist a swing at the official hillclimb time at Goodwood a month later - not because it was a bigger technical challenge by any means, but rather because it provided the I.D. R with the ultimate scalp: a longstanding Formula 1 car record. The unspoken message about Volkswagen's engineering prowess and emissions-free electric propulsion could hardly have been delivered more succinctly; a Mercedes V10-powered, Adrian Newey-designed, Championship-winning McLaren had been vanquished to second place in the history books.

Naturally the manufacturer was tickled even more pink - and has therefore found itself completely incapable of recognising when the bow ought to have been tied on the car's escapades. Instead it shipped the I.D. R off to China with a new paint job and the entirely frivolous objective of driving up a bit of Hunan Province tarmac quicker than a Range Rover Sport SVR managed it last year. Still, the Tianmen Mountain Big Gate Road is nothing if not pretty, and therefore delivers a very fine Pic of the Week. A fitting (and hopefully final) tribute to Volkswagen's bright spark.


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Comments (3) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Nerdherder 15 Sep 2019

    Longreads on Integral Powertrain and Norma please PH!

  • lukeyman 15 Sep 2019

    I reckon he could have gone faster.

    Shame that road isn't a little closer!

  • iiievolution 15 Sep 2019

    It sounds like an RC car. I like it.

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