Volkswagen ID.R Sets New Record on Tianmen Shan

Setting the first ever time up the 99-turn Tianmen Shan Big Gate Road, Romain Dumas and the ID.R continue to push electric vehicle performance records.

Look, it’s no secret: I love EVs as much as I love ICE cars. So, when the ID.R sets a new record, it’s something I look into. This one, however, is a first as this is the first time any vehicle has set a time up Tianmen Shan Big Gate Road on Tianmen Mountain of Hunan Province, China. At least officially, anyhow.

The Record and Romain Dumas

The record, 7:38.585, comes at a time as China continues to push, hard, for electric vehicles as well as Volkswagen’s continued investment into EV technology and performance. It’s also coming on the heels of the announcement of the first ID. branded vehicle to make its debut: the ID.3 at the Frankfurt Motor Show on September 10, 2019.

“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.”

After his record drive, Romain Dumas stated, “I will certainly remember this record run on Tianmen Mountain forever as my most spectacular outing. I am proud to have set a record with the electric Volkswagen ID.R in China.” Since it is a public road, there was no time for testing, as Romain explained, “The little information and testing we had beforehand made it a huge challenge. 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.”

The ID.R

The ID.R is a specially designed racecar made by Volkswagen is considered the sister car to the Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo. When the ID.R was being developed for Pikes Peak, VW used the knowledge gained from the 919 Hybrid’s aerodynamics and – with chassis development partnership with Norma (a French Sports Prototype and Hillclimb vehicle specialist) – allowed VW to build the car in just nine months. At 7:57.148, the ID.R became the fastest vehicle up Pikes, electric or otherwise and no one was able to best it during the 2019 running.

Since then, the ID.R has set electric vehicle records at the Nurburgring (6:05.336), the Goodwood Festival of Speed Hillclimb (39.90-seconds), and the Dewar Trophy of the Royal Automobile Club awarded to Integral Powertrain – the builders of the electric motors in the ID.R.

It has two motors, one per axle and making this an All-Wheel Drive racecar. The combined power of both Integral Powertrain motors is 680-horsepower. While that might not sound like much, its also powering a car that weighs less than 2500-pounds.

Tianmen Shan Big Gate Road

What makes this road interesting is how many turns this road has. It’s a corner carver’s paradise at 99 turns and done so purposely. Since it is the Heaven’s Gate Mountain – the rough English translation of Tianmen – the 99 turns symbolize the nine palaces of Heaven of the Han Buddhist religion. It’s also why there are 999 steps to reach Heaven’s Gate, the natural arch formation the road is named for.

The road was constructed in 1998 and finished in 2006, a full eight years and a lifetime for a country known for its fast construction practices. Though, it does start at 656-feet above sea level and climbs to 4,265-feet in that 6.8-miles.

It’s also a very dangerous road with no runoffs, minimal barricades, and huge plunges from the side of the mountain. Even driving slowly can still be tricky.

Not the Only Record

While this is the first record set on the road itself, other records have been set on Tianmen Shan. In 2007, Alain Robert scaled the cliff below Heaven’s Gate with only his bare hands. He had no protection in case of a fall and was commemorated with a plaque on the arch.

In February of 2018, a Land Rover Range Rover Hybrid driven by Ho-Pin Tung, a Chinese-Dutch racing driver, scaled the 45-degree angle of the Heaven’s Gate staircase from bottom to top using both its ICE engine and Hybrid motor.

Red Bull China produced a competition in 2013 between Red Bull China driver, James Tang, and 2018 Formula Drift Pro 1 Rookie, Federico Sceriffo (five years before he was a Pro 1 Driver). With the better score – and a top speed of 105.6-MPH – Federico was the winner of this first and only drifting competition up Tianmen Shan Big Gate Road.

Finally, the World Wingsuit League held its first and second World Wingsuit Championships on Tianmen.

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Justin Banner, Lead Editor and Founder of Carbage Online, has been involved with the automotive media and industry in many capacities and now tackles publication ownership with CarbageOnline.com. Prior to that, he has freelanced for top online publications of modern media that include Speedhunters, MotoIQ, Super Street Online, Hot Rod Magazine and many others. All due to his nearly 20 years experience as a mechanic, service writer, and technical support in the automotive industry. Justin is also a Journalist Level member of the Motor Press Guild - an industry recognized entity of professional automotive journalists - since 2015.