In late June, VW Motorsport set a new Pikes Peak Hillclimb record, breaking the eight-minute barrier and recording a time of 7:57.148 minutes with the purpose-built electric I.D. R – an amazing result, especially considering how little opportunity there is for testing on the hillclimb course itself.
VW revealed earlier how simulation played a big part in getting the car ready, but physical testing was important, too. To that end, the technicians converted a Golf GTI TCR from the touring car department of Volkswagen Motorsport to use a twin-engine electric drive system with around 537bhp.
“We used this car for around 15 days in January 2018 to gather data at the Volkswagen test site in Ehra-Lessien. Being able to use the test site was a great help,” explains Fabrice van Ertvelde, project engineer for the I.D. R Pikes Peak.
Alongside Dumas, Volkswagen development driver Dieter Depping shared testing duty in the converted Golf at Ehra-Lessien. “It was all about researching the basics,” he says. “The electric drive system was a new area of activity for Volkswagen Motorsport. We had to understand how the individual components work together in a race car, and what the ideal configuration would be.”
The I.D. R also underwent four days of testing at the Pôle Mécanique Alès Cévennes circuit in the south of France after its first official public appearance. This enabled different suspension and aerodynamics setups to be trialled. Ehra-Lessien continued to be used for further testing before the operation moved to the Pikes Peak International Raceway oval track, south of Colorado Springs.
Finally, the team was able to do some testing on the Pikes Peak hillclimb track. However, at this point it was late May – less than four weeks ahead of the race itself – and there were only three hours on three days available.
Depping and Dumas continued to share driving duties in the I.D. R Pikes Peak for these tests. When it was time for Dumas to take over, however, the weather conditions on the mountain worsened so severely that he was only able to drive on the lower section of the track, beneath the tree line. Consequently, he had never driven the full distance of the hillclimb course in the I.D. R Pikes Peak before the race.