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Volkswagen AWD EV to tackle Pikes Peak 2018. Image by Volkswagen.

Volkswagen AWD EV to tackle Pikes Peak 2018
Volkswagen heads back to the ‘Race to the Clouds’ in an electric prototype, aiming to set a record time...
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What's all this about?

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb: it's a torturous, 12.4-mile ascent of 4,700ft up a massive mountain in the Rockies, situated in the US state of Colorado. With 156 turns and a finish line that's 14,000ft above sea level, this is one of the most infamous time trials - or, indeed, motorsport events - in the world. It takes a certain sort of madness to succeed at it; just ask Sebastien Loeb, who thundered up the course in a record 8m 13.878s in 2013, in an astonishingly evil-looking Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak edition. Well, Volkswagen has obviously also been at the loopy juice, as it's going to compete in this year's event... in a fully electric car.


Deadly serious. And the menacing-looking silhouette you can see in this image is the vehicle in question. While it won't challenge Loeb's ferocious 2013 overall record, VW is hoping this all-wheel-drive prototype does set the fastest time ever up the Colorado mountain for EVs, which is a still-pretty-damned-pacy 8m 57.118s, a time set in 2016's competition.

Why is VW doing this?

Two reasons, really. One, it has only ever competed at the Pikes Peak (sometimes known informally as the 'Race to the Clouds') once before, with a monster twin-engined Golf that agonisingly failed to finish in 1987. And two, on the 30th anniversary of its first abortive attempt, the company wishes to set the record straight, while simultaneously building customer awareness of its desire to become the world's leading electric vehicle manufacturer by 2025 - when it says it will have 23 full EVs on sale globally.

So what do some of the bigwigs of Volkswagen say?

"The Pikes Peak Hill Climb is one of the world's most renowned car races," said Dr Frank Welsch, Member of the Board responsible for Development. "It poses an enormous challenge and is therefore perfectly suited to proving the capabilities of upcoming technologies. Our electric race car will be equipped with innovative battery and drive technology. The extreme stress test posed by Pikes Peak will give us important feedback that will benefit future development, and it will showcase our products and their technologies."

And who is building the car? VW itself?

Yes, although the Volkswagen Motorsport works rally team created it, in close co-operation with Technical Development in Wolfsburg. "The race on Pikes Peak is a new beginning for us. We are developing an all-electric race vehicle for the first time," added Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director. "The project is also an important milestone in our new motorsport orientation. Our team is literally electrified about taking on this incredible challenge. It is high time for a rematch."

Matt Robinson - 19 Oct 2017    - Volkswagen road tests
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