When Alejandro Agag first pitched his idea for an electric car racing series, people laughed at him. They aren’t laughing anymore. Formula E is doing well, thank you very much, and all the world’s major car makers are trying to elbow their way into the competition.
Racing improves the breed and the lessons learned in Formula E will translate directly to electric road cars, something that Formula One technology used to do — think dual overhead cams, disc brakes, and turbochargers — but doesn’t much anymore.
Volkswagen ID.R At The Nurburgring
The Nurburgring was once one of the most iconic racing circuits in the world. Construction began in 1925 and the first races were held in 1927. According to legend, Mercedes race cars today are called Silver Arrows because in the 30s, the team removed the paint from its cars the night before a race in order to comply with the 750 kg weight limit, leaving the aluminum bodywork exposed.
The original course was 28.265 km long and featured 187 corners. It had more than 1,000 feet of elevation change as it meandered up and through the Eifel mountains. In 1968, Jackie Stewart won the German grand prix at the Nurburgring. Afterwards, he dubbed it “The Green Hell,” a nickname that continues to this day.
In 1976, reigning world champion racing driver Niki Lauda begged his peers not to race on a wet track at the Nuburgring but his pleas were ignored. During the ensuing race, Lauda crashed his Ferrari and was trapped inside his burning race car until extricated by his fellow drivers. That event was memorialized in the Ron Howard movie Rush.
That was the last Formula One race ever held on the full circuit. Subsequently, a shorter race course was constructed but the upper part of the track, known as the Nordschleife or northern loop, has remained open for use by individual drivers for a fee. Today it is 20.81 km long with 154 turns. The racing lap record of 6:25.91 was set in 1983 by Stefan Bellof driving a Porsche 956 in a World Endurance Challenge event.
Last week, a distant cousin of that Porsche 956 — the Volkswagen ID.R electric race car — completed a lap of the Nordschleife in just over 6 minutes, 5 seconds, a new record for electric cars. The ID.R blasted its way to the top of Pikes Peak last year in a time that was not only a record for electric cars but the fastest run by any vehicle ever.
The ID.R is purported to be based on the MEB chassis that Volskwagen will use to build its ID-badged electric cars and use some powertrain components destined for those cars.
Electric cars still have a ways to go to get to the all time record at the Nordschleife — 5:19.546 — which was set last year by Timo Bernhart driving a specially modified Porsche 919 hybrid. But they are getting closer all the time. Keep in mind that the Porsche 919 is a partially electric car combined with a gasoline engine.
Pan-European Electric Marathon
Prince Albert II of Monaco is a strong supporter of electric transportation. He was involved in the Solar Impulse II project that saw an electric airplane powered entirely by sunlight circumnavigate the world in 2016. The headquarters for that effort were located in Monaco.
He is now one of the leaders of a new electric vehicle challenge, the Pan-European Electric Marathon, a 4700-kilometer rally for electric cars only that left Monaco on May 27 and will finish in St. Petersburg on June 6. Going into the final day of competition, the leading car is a Tesla Model S.
The rally will pass through 10 countries — Monaco,France, Italy, San Marino, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, and Russia — with stops in 29 cities along the way. It is inspired by a similar automobile rally that first ran in the 1930s. According to Prince Albert II, its purpose is to raise awareness of modern electric vehicles in order to promote innovative and sustainable solutions against climate change.
Someone will win, but the prince says everyone who participates will benefit from the experience, which is yet another step forward for the EV revolution.
Hat Tip: Ken Anderson
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