7:57:148—Volkswagen makes racing history with record-breaking electric race car
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—All it took was two visits to the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb for it to steal our hearts. The second-oldest motor race in the United States—only the Indy 500 predates it—is unlike virtually every other professional motorsports event we cover. And this year's edition proved to be novel in its own right.
Last weekend, we were on hand to witness French racing driver Romain Dumas and car maker Volkswagen stamp their authority on all 12.4-miles (19.99km) of the course, destroying the course's existing record and setting the first sub-eight minute time in race history. What makes the feat even more interesting around Ars is that the car in the record books is all-electric, marking perhaps the first time in major motorsport that a battery electric vehicle has beaten the internal combustion engine fair and square.
In retrospect, if any car has an advantage at Pikes Peak it's the EV. The start line is already at 9,390 feet (2,862m) above sea level; the finish line is an even higher 14,110 feet (4,300m) and much of the course is above the tree line where there's 40 percent less oxygen to breathe. Consequently, internal combustion engines will lose power—significantly—as they climb the route, even with the aid of forced induction or crafty fuel mixtures.