After smashing records at Pikes Peak and the Nüburgring with the ID R electric vehicle, Volkswagen and Romain Dumas added a third notch to their belts this past weekend. The setting couldn’t have been more different from Colorado’s high-speed, high-altitude mountain or the racetrack they call the Green Hell: the team went to Goodwood in England, a genteel country estate that’s home to the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Part garden party, part car show, the Festival of Speed is also a competitive event, with a 1.15-mile (1.87km) hillclimb up past Goodwood House. In 1999, the McLaren Formula 1 team and driver Nick Heidfeld ran the course in just 41.6 seconds. That was fast enough to make Lord Charles March, the organizer, decide it was time to stop timing F1 cars up the hill. That record stood for two decades.
VW and Dumas took the ID R to Goodwood in 2018, hoping to beat Heidfeld’s record. They managed to set the fastest time of the day but were more than a second adrift. This year, fresh with success at the Nürburgring, it was time to try again. The car was modified a little from when I saw it in June. The Goodwood course covers less than a tenth the distance of either Pikes Peak or the Nürburgring, so the team stripped out some batteries to bring the overall weight (including Dumas) down below 2,204lbs (1,000kg). The active aerodynamic system on the rear wing was also left at home, and tire partner Bridgestone brought along a particularly sticky rubber compound.
The tweaks evidently helped. On the day Dumas was in the zone, he dispatched the mile-and-a-bit driveway in just 39.9 seconds. “I am very proud to have set the all-time record in Goodwood with the ID.R. The short hillclimb is a very special challenge,” he said. “Because the track is so short, I could not afford to make even the slightest mistake, and every aspect of the fine-tuning of the ID.R had to be perfect. That was particularly challenging, as we were not able to test on the route beforehand.”
The future on display
Although Goodwood is more usually associated with historic and classic cars, the ID R wasn’t the only harbinger of the future. Extreme E, the off-road cousin to Formula E, debuted its new car. It’s called the Odyssey 21, and the plan is to race these 550hp (400kW) tube-framed electric off-roaders in some of the remotest spots on the planet to highlight mankind’s ongoing destruction of the environment.
The people (and robots) of Roborace also put on a show. In 2018, they took Robocar to the event, where it became the first vehicle to complete the course autonomously. More recently, Roborace has been looking at combining human and machine, and the company brought along DevBot 2.0. Like the original DevBot, it’s a prototype sports car with an electric powertrain. It has room for a human occupant plus all the hardware necessary to drive itself (very fast).
Roborace sent the car off the line with YouTuber Seb Delanney in the driver’s seat, but he stopped the car outside Goodwood House and climbed out. DevBot 2.0 performed a few checks and then left without him, Delanney waving goodbye as it disappeared from view.
That wasn’t the only car to reach the finish line with an empty driver’s seat. Samsung brought along something it calls the S-Drone, a teleoperated Lincoln MKZ sedan. The point was to show off how speedy its 5G is, so drift champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. controlled the S-Drone from a remote location armed with a gaming wheel and a VR headset.