Last summer Mercedes-Benz brought an F1 W07 chassis out to Sonoma Raceway in California’s wine country, plugged Esteban Gutierrez into the driver seat, and unleashed him on the track. He managed to fling Lewis Hamilton’s championship-winning chassis around the track in a new [unofficial] record time of 1 minute 15.430 seconds. Volkswagen wants to beat that. With an electric car.
The Volkswagen ID.R has already proven it is incredibly fast, setting the outright record up Pikes Peak hillclimb, setting a record (albeit unofficial) at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, nabbing the electric record at the Nurburgring Nordschliefe, and setting the pace up China’s Tianmen Mountain Heaven’s Gate road. But none of those records were face to face with a goddamn F1 car!
To make things a little more exciting, Volkswagen will have an audience for the attempt. Just like Mercedes’ effort last year, the lap record attempt will take place during the Sonoma Speed Festival vintage racing weekend in late May. I was there for Mercedes’ run last year, and it was a cracking good time.
“After setting the overall record at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 2018, we are looking forward to returning to North America to launch a new record attempt with the fully electric-powered ID.R. The Sonoma Speed Festival at Sonoma Raceway provides a serious motorsport challenge. We are seeking to beat the lap record set by a Formula 1 car and underline the potential of electric drive,” Said Sven Smeets, Volkswagen motorsport director.
Sonoma is a relatively tight course with lots of elevation change and quick bursts between sharp corners making up a majority of the lap. This is where an electric car excels, especially one with big downforce and lots of power. The ID.R is much heavier than Mercedes F1 W07, but a Formula One car wasn’t really built for a short one-lap burst, it was made to endure a two-hour race, and it makes its power in a very different way. Is that enough to make the difference? We’ll find out in May.