Volkswagen\u2019s ID.4 Racer Survives Baja

Volkswagen’s ID.4 1st Edition RWD racer finished the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA) Mexican 1000 off-road race in 61st place and VW officials told Autoweek the ID.4 had no mechanical issues after five grueling days in the Mexican desert. Rally and drifting ace Tanner Foust and co-driver Emme Hall got stuck in some sand on the first day and had to be dragged out, costing a bit of time. Otherwise there were no other issues.

Rhys Millen Racing prepared the crossover utility vehicle, taking a stock ID.4 with a stock powertrain and an 82-kWh battery pack, and modifying it with an off-road suspension and racing interior. The SUV’s electronics were given more protection from the elements, and the ID.4’s interior was stripped and modified with a roll cage, racing seats, and supplemental screens for data like battery temperature. Millen also reworked the suspension for off-roading, added skid plates. Millen told Autoweek he swapped the 19-inch wheels for 18s with 255/70 tires with more sidewall for cushioning and wheel travel. The body was also lifted about 2 inches from stock.

Since Millen won the race overall, it’s fair to say VW picked the right car builder to find out how well its production-based EV might handle some extreme off-road challenges.

“With Rhys’ experience down here racing on the peninsula, he knew what the most important modifications the ID.4 would need,” Foust told Autoweek. “A lot of it was just reinforcing stock components.

“It’s the first time I’ve done a 1,000-mile race without a mechanical issue,” Foust told Autoweek. “In fact we never even changed the tires. More than 10 racers got stuck in the same place we did on the first day, so on the way back the organizers bypassed that area.

“The five day format is essentially like the historic Baja 1000 that people are familiar with, it’s just broken into stages over the five days,” Foust explained. “So it’s perfect for EV driving because you have designated transit times and overnight to accomplish the charge.”

Foust told us the ID.4 went about the same distance as the combustion race trucks but of course the charging takes longer.

He said there were no other EVs in the race but some have gone down to Baja to test. He also told us the fans, race organizers and other competitors loved seeing the ID.4 compete. “The support we got as was amazing. I think the competitors see it as a glimpse into the future of motorsport. And Volkswagen is deep in the heart of Baja with the Beetle legacy, so the race fans absolutely loved seeing ID.4. Even when we were last on the road they’d stick around and cheer us on.”

That’s all well and good but the reality is not too many customers are going to go desert racing in their ID.4s, so what was the point of the exercise? Foust told us it’s about more than just the challenge and more than just being the first to do it. “Almost everywhere we race internal combustion cars today, we’ll be racing EVs in the future. And a lot of the objections you hear to electric cars – duration, dealing with heat — are just wrong. We wanted to show that a car like this with fewer moving parts and fewer things to go wrong could actually be more reliable than a combustion engine car in the nastiest conditions there are.

“For people thinking about buying an EV, we put one in conditions 100 times harsher than anything they’ll ever drive in. If it can survive that it can certainly survive the street.

“We’re in the very early days of EVs racing an extreme race like this,” Foust told us. “We’re limited on charging solutions but as soon as next year and the year after, as mobile charging solutions get more capable, this will be a very accessible race for people that buy an EV and modify it.”

What’s next for a racing ID.4? VW officials told Autoweek the company is considering running the all-women Rebelle Rally scheduled for October 7-16.

We’ll be watching!

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