As it prepares for this year’s edition of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Volkswagen has put together an overview of the race's development from 1916 to present days. The German company is working on a dedicated fully electric race car, which will compete in the Unlimited class, where manufacturers and private teams have nearly unlimited technical freedom.
While there’s definitely a lot of interesting facts about the event’s history since the first race in 1916 (check out the press release section below), Volkswagen is also sharing the first fully-revealing images of its new electric racer, which will officially be named the I.D. R Pikes Peak. The renderings give us another look at the gigantic wing at the back, which flanks massive rear fenders, while the side profile clearly shows styling resemblances to the company's I.D. concepts.
Volkswagen explains the four-wheel-drive race car will not only provide a glimpse into the future of the I.D. family of all-electric vehicles and its sporting potential, but is also the first step towards “a closer relationship between Volkswagen R and Volkswagen Motorsport,” the performance and motorsport divisions of the automaker.
“We want to be at the forefront of electro-mobility with Volkswagen and the I.D. family,” Volkswagen Member of the Board of Management, Frank Welsch, comments. “Competing in the most famous hillclimb in the world with the I.D. R Pikes Peak is a valuable test for the general development of electric cars.”
This year Volkswagen will make its second appearance at the “Race to the Clouds.” Back in 1987, the Wolfsburg-based company entered Pikes Peak with a dual-engine Golf, with one engine driving the front wheels and the other powering the rear axle. Now, more than 30 years later, VW is ready “for a rematch” and will be back to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado Springs to tackle the 12.4-mile course with the all-electric I.D. R Pikes Peak. The race is scheduled for June 24.
Gallery: VW I.D. R Pikes Peak
Over the course of its existence, the "Pikes Peak International Hill Climb" has seen the start of almost anything on wheels – from motorbikes to trucks. In addition, new classes have been created on a regular basis. The following is an overview of the event's development from 1916 to the present.
In the beginning, the rules were amazingly simple. Anyone could take part in the race, as long as they showed up at the starting line between August 10 and August 12, 1916. It was a pragmatic approach, since in those days there was only a limited number of automobiles and motorbikes.
In 2018, there are six different classes each for cars and motorbikes. Volkswagen's fully electric prototype starts in the "unlimited" class. As the name implies, this category gives engineers almost complete freedom with respect to technology.
The evolution of the Pikes Peak rule book between 1916 and 2018 is reflected by the development of racing in general. After the "500 miles of Indianapolis", it is the second-oldest race still in existence in the USA. It's this ability to adapt that made it possible for this race to survive for over 100 years.
1922: A Race Car from the Scrap Yard causes Contempt
In 1922, Noel Bullock became the reason people started thinking about technical rules. He had taken parts from a scrap yard to build his own race car. The car looked odd, but he won the race and that didn't sit well with certain people.
During that time, single-seater race cars with front-mounted engines and free-standing wheel, so-called open-wheelers, were still among themselves. That changed in the late 1920s. Emerging from the world of alcohol smuggling, came so-called stock cars – vehicles that looked like regular cars from the outside, but had souped-up engines. They were free to enter the Pikes Peak race as well. But they had a hard time dealing with the dirt track.
The 1950s: Porsche's mid-mounted engine sports cars are going strong
The next milestone came in 1953. For the first time, sports cars were given their own class. The Porsche models RSK, RS-60 and RS-61 soon became the yardstick in their category and fared well in the overall results, too. Mid-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive – this concept proved to be superior to the front-engine/rear-wheel drive principle that had established itself in the American racing world. A short time later, in the stock car class, a front-wheel-driven vehicle made its way to the top. In 1968, Oldsmobile Toronados landed on the first three places in that category.
The 70s are dominated by lightweight Buggies
Buggy cars added a new chapter to the discussion about the optimal race car. Ultra-lightweight vehicles with Volkswagen and later Porsche engines had an advantage in terms of traction. When Buggies evolved into cars with even lighter steel-tube frames, the event organizers felt compelled to act and introduced a minimum weight requirement.
This rule, on the other hand, was perfect for the heavier Coyote race cars made by John Wells. Featuring large V8 engines, they originated in the drag-racing scene, but thanks to their rear-mounted engines also lent themselves perfectly to mountain races. They began dominating the Pikes Peak race in the mid 70s.
Winning in a 4x4. Audi shocks the Competition.
In an effort to attract more international teams, the race organizers introduced the "open rally division" in 1981. The strategy worked. In 1985, Audi dealt a double blow to the American racing scene. French national Michèle Mouton became the first woman to win the entire race, and she did it in a 4x4.
Audi added two more victories with Bobby Unser in 1986 and Walter Röhrl in 1987. Then it was Peugeot's turn. Ari Vatanen's victory in 1988 became eternalized in the movie "Cloud Dance".
Unlimited Possibilities in the Unlimited Category
To make the race more attractive for manufacturers, the organizers had added an additional class, called "unlimited". It was the "everything goes" category and became the domain of extreme race cars, often employed to test future technologies under the extreme conditions of a mountain race.
This also included the electric drive. In 2013, Japanese driver Nobuhiro Tajima broke the 10-minute mark in a fully electric prototype car. By that point, the entire track had been paved. Three years later, the American Rhys Millen established the record time of 8:57.118 for fully electric cars, which remains unbroken to this day.
The only person to exceed that time was 9-time rally world champion Sébastien Loeb. In 2013, the Frenchman crossed the finish line at 8:13.878 in his Peugeot with Le-Mans technology. His track record remains unbeaten.
A unique Mix of Past, Present and Future
Today, the starting field of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is probably a unique mixture of past, present and future. 56 cars and 27 motorbikes are on the 2018 participant list, including rally cars from the legendary group-B era and touring cars from the 1970s, as well as prototypes with gasoline engines or electric drives, and even quads and motorbikes with sidecars.
Pikes Peak International Hill Climb 2018 - an Overview of Classes
Prototypes – nearly unlimited technical freedom – some rules apply with respect to safety
Time Attack 1
Based on a mass-produced vehicle – engine tuning and improved aerodynamics allowed within certain limits – 2x4 or 4x4 drives permitted.
Pikes Peak Cup
Race cars corresponding with a manufacturer's brand trophy.
Single-seater prototypes – one engine (conventional drives only) – 2x4 and 4x4 drives permitted – the minimum weight is dependent upon the engine and drive type (prototypes).
Pikes Peak Open
Based on a mass-produced vehicle - engine tuning and improved aerodynamics permitted within a broad range - 2x4 and 4x4 drives permitted – minimum weight is 816 kg.
All vehicles that can't be categorized in one of the other classes – to be decided by race management.
Pikes Peak Lightweight
Up to 500 cm3 of engine displacement – 2 cylinders maximum – two or four-stroke engines permitted.
Pikes Peak Middleweight
Up to 850 cm3 of engine displacement – 4 cylinders maximum - two or four-stroke engines permitted.
Pikes Peak Heavyweight
Up to 1,305 cm3 of engine displacement – 4 cylinders maximum.
Fully electric drives (prototypes).
Pikes Peak Quad
Only freely available gasoline engines without turbo chargers – single cylinder 4-stroke engines with a maximum of 750 cm3 of engine displacement – 1 or 2-cylinder 2-stroke engines with a maximum of 550 cm3 of engine displacement - tuning permitted.
All motorbikes and quads that can't be categorized in one of the other classes, to be decided by race management (e.g. motorbike with sidecar).