Volkswagen’s first fully-electric racing car will take on the most famous hill climb in the world on June 24.

The company is hoping the I.D. R will produce a record breaking run in the class for electric prototypes in the Colorado Pikes Peak Hill Climb.

The record currently stands at 8:57.118 minutes.

“Before we actually assembled the I.D. R Pikes Peak, we used computers to analyse a multitude of different configurations,” technical advisor Willy Rampf said.

“It was clear to us that we would not have time to build multiple test vehicles.

“We had to get it right at the first attempt.”

The trials focused on finding the optimum balance between performance and weight.

Both factors are more dependent on each other in an electric car, because the more performance a car delivers, the heavier the batteries that are needed.

At the same time, every single gram is unwanted weight — particularly in a hill climb.

On Pikes Peak, the cars must climb more than 1433 metres on the way to the finish line at 4302 metres above sea level.

Romain Dumas, at the wheel of the I.D. R Pikes Peak, will also be faced with a series of hairpin turns, where a heavy car will be at a disadvantage when braking and accelerating out of corners.

Volkswagen Motorsport engineers decided to make the I.D. R Pikes Peak as light as possible, while maintaining a very high level of performance.

Fortunately, there are essentially no regulations for the “Unlimited” class, giving the team complete design freedom.

Being given the proverbial blank sheet of paper and told to develop a new racing car from scratch is a dream come true for any engineer.

To develop a car solely for this 20km hill climb is a very special task.

Climb aboard for Pikes Peak

“Simulation played a major role in achieving the low weight of the car,” Rampf said.

Computers were used to design chassis parts in such a way that they are able to cope with anticipated loads without appearing oversize or overweight.

The development team also dispensed with the standard, but extremely expensive, materials commonly used in top-class motor racing — such as titanium.

The chassis, suspension and safety structure of the I.D. R Pikes Peak are almost completely made of steel and aluminium.

The car, complete with driver, weighs less than 1100kg — a light weight compared to Pikes Peak category electric race-cars.

A relatively low output of 500kW allowed the use of compact battery components that could be positioned next to and behind the driver, ensuring perfect weight distribution.

They provide the energy for two electric motors — one at the front and one at the rear axle, while torque distribution is managed electronically.

The I.D. R Pikes Peak’s chassis and aerodynamic components are made of an extremely light carbon-fibre/Kevlar composite.

The effort put into weight reduction is exemplified by the driver’s equipment.

Technology partner OMP made the driver fire-resistant race suit, as well as the seat padding and six-point harness, from particularly light material.

Even the sponsors’ logos are printed on to the overall, to save the weight of conventional patches.

However, Volkswagen Motorsport did have to make one concession.

The rules stipulate that each driver must wear a large event emblem, roughly 101.3 square centimetres, on their race suit.

The plan was to have this logo printed on Dumas’ race suit too, but the regulations say it has to be sewn on.

Believe it or not, the thread used for that weighs almost as much as the entire suit.

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Climb aboard for Pikes Peak

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.
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