THE MOTORSPORT LAP
VW’s electric supercar zooms to Heaven’s Gate
Battery-powered ID.R continues its record-breaking run on Tianmen Mountain in China
Volkswagen’s ID.R electric racing car continues to notch up speed records at iconic roads and race circuits.
The latest milestone saw French racing driver Romain Dumas zooming through the 99 tight corners on China’s Tianmen Mountain road to Heaven’s Gate in 7:38.585 minutes — faster than any other car.
The ID.R is on a global record-breaking tour and already holds the records on Pikes Peak (US) and at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (UK), the electric lap record on Germany’s Nürburgring-Nordschleife, and now the fastest time for an ascent of Tianmen Mountain in China.
The car is the motorsport ambassador for the new, fully-electric range of vehicles from Volkswagen, the ID family, the first of which — the ID.3 — will have its world premiere at next week’s Frankfurt motor show.
"A new record on a truly spectacular road — Volkswagen and the ID.R have once again shown what the electromobility of the future is already capable of today,” said Ralf Brandstätter, chief operating officer of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand. “Not only has it proven that electric cars like the ID.R can break established records and set new benchmarks, but the ID.R also shows how emotive and exciting the mobility of the future is.”
Tianmen Shan Big Gate Road on Tianmen Mountain is a true test. Romain Dumas approached the 10.9km “China Challenge” to “Heaven’s Gate” — a 131.5m natural arch — with respect. The narrow and winding road has 99 hairpins and fast winding sections with speeds of up to 230 km/h.
The ID.R, which local motorheads got to see on show at the recent Festival of Motoring at Kyalami, is driven by two electric motors with a total system performance of 500kW.
“I will certainly remember this record run on Tianmen Mountain forever as my most spectacular outing,” said Dumas.
“The road is incredibly narrow and winding, but the drive was unbelievable fun with the electric power of the ID.R. The huge torque was a big advantage on the short straights, while the aerodynamics provided additional traction in the fast sections.”
Hamilton relishes rivalry with Leclerc
Five-times world champion Lewis Hamilton is looking forward to many more battles with Charles Leclerc after the young Monegasque took his first Formula One victory in Belgium on Sunday and ended Ferrari's win drought.
Leclerc, the Italian glamour team's youngest winner at 21, won from pole position on an emotional afternoon at Spa overshadowed by the death on Saturday of French F2 racer Anthoine Hubert.
A chasing Hamilton finished second for Mercedes, stretching his overall lead to 65 points, with Ferrari's four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel only fourth.
"He (Leclerc) has been really unlucky in quite a few races this year. It could easily have been the third win (for him) today," Hamilton said.
"So there’s a lot more greatness to come from him and I’m looking forward to seeing his growth and racing alongside him. It was fun today, trying to chase him. He was just a little bit too quick."
Monza, Ferrari's home race, is next up on Sunday and the Italian team can hope for a triumphant homecoming in front of their passionate fans.
Team boss Mattia Binotto warned it would still be tough, however.
"The best way to approach Monza would have been to win many races before and not only Spa," he told reporters.
"But...we proved that our package is competitive here at Spa, and we maybe expect to be competitive in Monza as well."
Leclerc’s win at Spa-Francorchamps came in the 13th race of a 21-round season and was Ferrari’s first since Kimi Raikkonen, now at Alfa Romeo, won the US Grand Prix last October.
The sport’s oldest and most successful team had been favourites to win in Belgium, with their car aerodynamically suited to the high speed track’s fast sweeps and flat-out blasts, and will be fancied again for Monza.
The layout of the historic track near Milan, with long flat-out straights mostly broken only by fast chicanes, should suit Ferrari even more than Spa.
They have not won at home since 2010 but Leclerc's breakthrough, with the Monaco anthem sounding out for the first time, will have sent expectations soaring.
Memories of last year, when Ferrari locked out the front row in qualifying but Hamilton won for Mercedes, serve as a warning, however.
Motor racing was in mourning on Sunday after Hubert, 22, succumbed to injuries sustained in a high speed crash during a Formula Two race the previous day.
Race winner Leclerc, who grew close to the Frenchman when they were youngsters in karting and competed against him in his very first race, was among those most affected.
“It’s a good day but on the other hand losing Anthoine yesterday brings me back to 2005, my first ever French championship,” said the Ferrari driver. “There was him, Esteban (Ocon), Pierre (Gasly), myself and we were four kids that were dreaming of Formula One.”
Jules Bianchi was the last driver to die from injuries sustained on an F1 race weekend. He died on 17 July 2015 after a long coma following his crash into a recovery vehicle during the Japanese Grand Prix on 5 October 2014.