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Volkswagen ID R: TG mag's Racecar of the Year

VW's Pikes Peak destroying electric prototype is the world's fastest bespoke hillclimb car

Published: 01 Jan 2019

“The most impressive car I’ve ever driven in competition.” As statement’s go, it’s a bold one. When you learn it was uttered about a car that was cobbled together in under nine months and came from the mouth of a man whose more usual daily driver over the past few years has been a Porsche 919 Hybrid LMP1 car, you sit up and take notice. Yep, Romain Dumas, a man who won Le Mans twice driving the Porsche, said those words about this, the VW ID R Pikes Peak.

Why? What makes it so special? The answer to that begins with the event it competed in. The Pikes Peak hillclimb in Colorado is not like most racing events. Most racing events are governed around the need to keep the racing close, often to the detriment of ingenuity and innovation. The Pikes Peak Unlimited class is different, the rules are… unlimited. And so’s the event itself, a 12.42-mile, 156-curve course that starts at the altitude of many Alpine summits and climbs a vertical mile from there.

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To conquer it, VW created the world’s fastest bespoke hillclimb car. Powered by electricity not only to defy oxygen starvation at altitude, but also develop the instant torque necessary for teleport-level acceleration. Six hundred and seventy bhp, 1,100kg including Romain, capable of hitting 100mph from a standing start in 3.7secs. Ultra-precise in both its engineering and dynamics, with wings to glue the fat slicks to the road and regenerative braking to harvest energy. So complete, so honed that surely the ID R is now the template for success at Pikes Peak – certainly it’s hard to see a way back to the podium for the internal combustion engine.

So attuned are car and event that you begin to wonder if the challenge was made for the car, or the car for the challenge. Considering Pikes Peak has been around since 1919 and the ID R for only 250 days prior to this year’s event, we already know the answer to that. Conclusion? A fitness for purpose that fully deserves the title of Top Gear’s Racecar of the Year.

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