Edi­tor’s let­ter

Wheels (Australia) - - Editor’s Letter - ALEX IN­WOOD

FEW EVENTS ARE AS CA­PA­BLE OF WORK­ING ME INTO A GREEN LATHER OF ENVY AS THE GOOD­WOOD FES­TI­VAL OF SPEED. I’M YET TO AT­TEND LORD MARCH’S DRIVE­WAY ORGY OF ROL­LICK­ING METAL, BUT FROM AFAR IT’S A PETROL­HEAD’S NIR­VANA; A HEADY GATH­ER­ING OF MA­CHIN­ERY THAT DOESN’T JUST SIT STILL AND GLINT IN THE SUN, BUT ROARS UP THE NAR­ROW COURSE IN A FLURRY OF TOR­TURED RUB­BER AND FUMES.

Miss­ing this year’s event had a par­tic­u­lar sting. Not only had Wheels ne­go­ti­ated its way into the pas­sen­ger seat of the Brab­ham BT62, which was mak­ing its global dy­namic de­but (Ben Oliver, lucky bug­ger, took my spot; p14), but the scuttlebutt was Good­wood would fi­nally de­liver our first proper look at the fifth-gen Toy­ota Supra; a car that, along with the all-new Corolla, shows Aus­tralia’s largest car brand is com­mit­ted to di­alling up the ex­cite­ment, and driver ap­peal, through­out its model range. (A cam­ou­flaged Supra did hit the hill­climb; see p60).

Then there was the in­trigue of Volk­swa­gen’s ID R pro­to­type; the be­winged and fiendishly com­pli­cated elec­tric racer that ar­rived at Good­wood hoping to oblit­er­ate the record for the fastest run up the hill, just as it had done at Pikes Peak a few weeks ear­lier.

Those fa­mil­iar with this col­umn will know I’m open-minded about em­brac­ing the per­for­mance po­ten­tial of our rapidly ap­proach­ing EV over­lords, which is what made watch­ing the ID R’s run all the more con­fus­ing. It looked fan­tas­tic (like a Le Mans car, with more wing), and was dev­as­tat­ingly fast, but set against the ca­coph­ony of Good­wood’s starstud­ded, petrol-gur­gling field, it felt a lit­tle… flat.

The most ex­cit­ing mo­ment was de­liv­ered in one of its early runs when driver Ro­main Du­mas caught a nasty snap of over­steer and flew onto the grass at high speed. But even inches from dis­as­ter, the VW lacked the drama and the­atre of a Brab­ham or Mclaren Senna.

It seems so ob­vi­ous now that the miss­ing in­gre­di­ent was sound, but it didn’t fully twig un­til I watched another piece of on-board footage, this time from Porsche’s stun­ning record run at the Nur­bur­gring in the 919 EVO (Wheels was there, p24). If you haven’t seen it yet, head to Youtube now. It’s truly cap­ti­vat­ing, not only for its mind­bend­ing dis­play of grip and speed, but for the brav­ery, com­mit­ment and skill of Porsche fac­tory driver Timo Bern­hard.

Would the 919’s run be as en­thralling and as spec­tac­u­lar with­out the howl of its (elec­tri­cally as­sisted) 535kw 2.0-litre V4? Re-watch­ing the VW’S near-silent runs at Pikes Peak and Good­wood sug­gest that no, it wouldn’t.

None of this be­lit­tles the achieve­ments or the engi­neer­ing prow­ess of the ID R. As a glimpse into the fu­ture, and into the po­ten­tial of EV pow­er­trains, it’s ex­cit­ing. But to have the pit­falls of zero en­gine noise in a per­for­mance car ham­mered home with such clar­ity was con­fronting.

This isn’t a new is­sue, of course. Wheels has been ask­ing car com­pany ex­ecs about over­com­ing the lack of an en­gag­ing sound­track in per­for­mance EVS for years, but un­til now, it’s largely been a hy­po­thet­i­cal. Yes we have Tes­las, and more eco-fo­cused EVS, but ex­clud­ing a few low-vol­ume cu­riosi­ties, we’re yet to see a fully elec­tric car where driver en­gage­ment and en­joy­ment are the top pri­or­i­ties. Porsche’s Tay­can (for­merly the Mis­sion E) is likely to be one of the first and Mark Web­ber, who has helped de­velop it, has some words of re­as­sur­ance.

“Peo­ple are go­ing to be ab­so­lutely blown away by that car,” he told me, be­fore ad­ding that it feels like a “proper Porsche”. It just won’t sound like one.

To have the pit­falls of zero en­gine noise in a per­for­mance car ham­mered home was con­fronting

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