The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is an “outstanding opportunity” for Volkswagen to promote electric mobility, according to VW Motorsport Director Sven Smeets.
The German manufacturer returns to the infamous Colorado mountain this weekend with its purpose-built I.D. R Pikes Peak for an attempt to break the record time for electric vehicles.
Smeets says the program is the ideal way for Volkswagen to showcase electric technology ahead of the launch of its EV road car range.
“Our brand has devoted itself to electric mobility,” he said. “For us, taking part on Pikes Peak is an outstanding opportunity to bring this idea to life with a racing car, before the first range of Volkswagen models with electric drivetrains is launched in 2020.
“Plus, there is obviously still this blemish in our history, since failing to finish in 1987. We want to return, win and break the record for electric vehicles.”
Three-time winner Romain Dumas posted the overall quickest time in the all-electric prototype in qualifying on Wednesday and will complete his run on Sunday.
While the overall record is 8:13.878, set by Sebastien Loeb in 2013, Volkswagen has its sights set on the best electric time of 8:57.118.
“Any time under 8:57 minutes would be a success for us,” said Smeets. “We are really optimistic about the race.
“However, we must always bear in mind that we only have one single shot at it. Everything must come together – the driver, the car, the weather, absolutely everything.”
Dumas: Electric Engines the “Best Choice” for Pikes Peak
Defending winner Dumas believes electric motors are preferable to traditional combustion engines for Pikes Peak, given the short-distance nature of the event.
“On Pikes Peak, electric engines are definitely the best choice in terms of the performance at altitude,” he explained.
“And they also make sense in very short races, like Rallycross. But right now I can’t see it working for endurance races.
“When the development of batteries progresses further, it could even become of interest for medium and long distances.
“Motorsport can play an important role here, since experience from the development tasks can help production.”
The 40-year-old Frenchman said one of the biggest challenges so far has been getting acclimated to a car that doesn’t produce engine noise, forcing him to rely on different types of feedback.
“There are nearly no noises from the engine or the gearbox,” he said. “Normally, these are important indicators for controlling speed.
“In the I.D. R Pikes Peak, I only have what I can see outside and my display on the steering wheel. The lack of feedback makes it very difficult, but I enjoy taking on challenges.”