Volkswagen has been racking up EV records with its ID.R all-electric racecar, and today the VW ID.R piloted by Romain Dumas managed to beat a record which has been held for 20 years — Nick Heidfeld’s record run of the Goodwood hillclimb in the 10-cylinder McLaren MP4/13 which dominated the 1998 Formula 1 season.
The previous record was 41.6 seconds for the 1.86km (1.16mi) hillclimb course. Volkswagen managed to bring that record down to 41.18. They have more runs to go this weekend, so it’s entirely possible that the record might be lowered again.
VW brought their ID.R to the hillclimb last year in an attempt to set the record, and they managed to set an EV record with a 43.05-second run but fell short of the overall record. This year, after taking the ID.R to Nurburgring and setting an EV record there, VW modified their package a little and managed to make the car quicker. In the last year VW also managed to set an all-time record at Pikes Peak with the ID.R.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed is a motorsports event which has been held since 1993 to celebrate historic vehicles. It’s one of the largest events in the world for classic motorsports and attracts over a hundred thousand attendees and hundreds of amazing cars each year.
One of the centerpieces of the event is the Goodwood hillclimb, where cars race up a short, not-too-steep (4.9% gradient) hillclimb course. It’s meant more as a demonstration than anything, an excuse for cars to get out and have a little fun in front of the grandstands. Of course, any time you close a track and start a stopwatch, racing drivers will relish the chance to set the fastest time they can. So while the competition isn’t fierce, it’s still there.
Despite the McLaren having had the fastest run at Goodwood and being from an era of F1 which set track records which lasted for many years, it’s likely that a modern F1 car would be able to conquer the hillclimb faster than the MP4/13 could. However, for many years Goodwood hasn’t allowed F1 cars to do timed runs, for safety reasons. F1 cars still appear at the circuit routinely, but mostly do demonstration runs.
So perhaps there are cars which could set faster times today, but the fact that this EV is in a similar category as an F1 car is quite an accomplishment.
Incidentally, this actually marks two overall, all-class records held by EVs at Goodwood. The VW ID.R is the fastest car of any type to conquer the hillclimb, but there was already one EV that beat every other car up the hill. That record was set by a stock Nissan Leaf in 2012, which did the fastest Goodwood run ever….in reverse gear. Because EV motors run just as well in reverse as forward gear, all Nissan had to do was remove the software speed limiter on the reverse gear and managed to run a 55mph average speed on their run up the course. It was a goofy record but did display one benefit of EVs – not needing a complicated gearbox for most road applications.
We love what VW is doing in electric racing, showing the world what a purpose-built electric racecar can do. EVs are great at hillclimbs because of their massive torque advantage (and even better at altitude like Pikes Peak) and because hillclimbs are generally rather short so energy density of batteries is less of a hindrance. So this record was bound to fall to an EV.
Now if only VW could translate that to the road. For as many announcements as VW has made about EVs, they have very little to show for it in terms of road cars. Mostly, so far, they’ve just been “thinking big,” and sounding big in press releases and marketing stunts like this one — but not actually “driving big” by having EVs on the roads. We hope that, after a decade or so of press releases from VW AG, that they’ll actually get some EVs on the road sometime soon. After all, Nissan, the other all-class record holder at Goodwood, has sold about 400,000 Leafs by now. Hopefully, VW can catch up with them in sales and not just on the track.
Watch the full Goodwood run below, then let us know what you think about this accomplishment in the comments: