VW’s record-breaking electric car takes on world’s scariest racetrack, Nürburgring


Enlarge / Romain Dumas at the wheel of the VW ID R electric car on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. (credit: Volkswagen Motorsport)

Although we make every effort to cover our own travel costs, in this case Volkswagen flew me to Germany and provided two nights in a hotel.

NÜRBURG, Germany—What do the race cars of Formula 1, the World Endurance Championship, NASCAR, and IndyCar all have in common? The answer is that each is built to comply with a specific set of rules. That’s understandable: rules in each series exist (ideally) to create a level playing field and to prevent cars from getting too fast and too powerful for the tracks upon which they race. But what if there were no rules? What if you could throw as much power and downforce onto a car as you could to make it go around a track faster than anything else?

This ethos has been tried at least once in the past. It was called the CanAm series, and until the 1973 oil crisis killed it, it gave rise to cars the likes of which had never been seen. The effort culminated in the 1,100hp (820kW) turbocharged Porsche 917/30, which is arguably also the car that helped kill the series because it was so much faster than anything else. Today CanAm is long gone, and no competitive series has seen fit to take up its mantle. But that doesn’t mean there’s no room left in the world for motorsport engineers to toss out the popular rulesets and start with a clean sheet of paper.

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