Rac­ing is elec­tri­fy­ing.

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Would you go to a silent drag race?

OK, an elec­tric drag race wouldn’t be silent, ex­actly, but the whir of a mo­tor cer­tainly can’t com­pare to the thunder of a nitro-burn­ing Top Fuel car.

In case you missed the news, an elec­tric Volk­swa­gen won this year’s run­ning of the Pikes Peak In­ter­na­tional Hill Climb, words I’m guess­ing no Unser or other Peak vet­eran ex­pected to ever see in print. The Volk­swa­gen I.D. R pur­pose-built Peak car not only won the race over­all, it be­came the first in the event’s 100-plus-year his­tory to sum­mit the 12.42-mile, 156-turn course in un­der 8 min­utes: 7:57.148. That hand­ily beat the 2013 over­all record of 8:13.878 and the pre­vi­ous elec­tric-car record of 8:57.118 set in 2016.

Elapsed times on the PPIHC have de­creased dra­mat­i­cally since the road was paved, in sec­tions, be­tween 2002 and 2012. But the course sur­face, while im­por­tant, was less of a fac­tor for the VW en­try than its mo­tive power. Or, more ac­cu­rately, the ef­fect the race’s set­ting has on mo­tive power. The start line for the Hill Climb is at 9,390 feet in el­e­va­tion, and the check­ered flag waves at 14,115 feet, chal­leng­ing con­di­tions for any pow­er­plant de­pen­dent on oxy­gen as part of its fuel equa­tion. An elec­tric mo­tor has no such de­pen­dency, mak­ing it an ideal power source for thin-air com­pe­ti­tion.

The elec­tric mo­tor’s in­stan­ta­neous torque de­liv­ery also helped the VW squirt out of the cor­ners and hair­pins quicker, shav­ing pre­cious sec­onds off the run’s time.

To some, its abun­dance of torque makes elec­tric­ity a nat­u­ral fit for drag rac­ing. If de­liv­ered in suf­fi­cient quan­tity and hooked to the pave­ment well enough, elec­tric-mo­tor torque could cause us to re­think 60-foot times just as peo­ple are re­think­ing what it takes to win Pikes Peak.

One pro­po­nent of elec­tric drag rac­ing is Bob Tasca III, NHRA Funny Car racer and scion of the Big Bop­per, Bob Tasca Sr., a leg­end in Ford per­for­mance. “You’re go­ing to see it, and I’m all for it,” Tasca said about elec­tric drag rac­ing in an in­ter­view with Au­toweek. “With the new elec­tric tech­nol­ogy in a drag car, it would be badass. It would be un­be­liev­able.” An elec­tric mo­tor’s “in­stant torque” would “ap­ply un­be­liev­ably well to drag rac­ing be­cause we need torque, we need to move the car now. It’s def­i­nitely go­ing to af­fect the NHRA. I don’t think it’s go­ing to re­place a nitro Funny Car any­time soon, but it would be fan­tas­tic.”

For its part, the NHRA is open to the idea. In the same Au­toweek story, NHRA Pres­i­dent Glen Cromwell said, “We’ve been talk­ing to our part­ners at Ford, Chevy, Toy­ota, Dodge Mopar. Elec­tric drag rac­ing is a part of our mar­ket­ing deck. Wally Parks’ mis­sion was to pro­vide a place to race. If the de­mand from the con­sumer is there, we’ll pro­vide a class. We’re in the car busi­ness. The NHRA will evolve.” Cromwell wouldn’t set a time frame for the adop­tion of elec­tric rac­ing, but did say, “We are watch­ing it very closely. It’s an im­por­tant part of our fu­ture.”

Aside from elec­tric rac­ing’s foothold at Pikes Peak, the growth of the FIA’S For­mula E se­ries for elec­tric open-wheel race cars is “be­yond ex­pec­ta­tions,” said the se­ries’ CEO, in an­other Au­toweek in­ter­view. So there’s no deny­ing that elec­tric rac­ing is here, and likely here to stay.

It’s heart­en­ing for us old­timers that these “cur­rent” de­vel­op­ments are tak­ing place along­side race cars with more tra­di­tional—i.e. liq­uid-fu­elpow­ered—engines. For­mula 1 is still the cut­ting edge of wheeled mo­tor­sport, and Pikes Peak

rac­ers have not aban­doned in­ter­nal com­bus­tion tech­nol­ogy quite yet. As Tasca III said, an e-drag­ster won’t be re­plac­ing nitro­meth­ane any­time soon. If drag rac­ing fol­lows the track of the other elec­tric se­ries, it would likely be de­vel­oped next to the more con­ven­tional cars.

So, do you have any in­ter­est in watch­ing elec­tric cars drag race? What if, as is hap­pen­ing on the Peak, they be­come quicker than their nitro-fu­eled coun­ter­parts? Maybe it de­pends on why you go to the drags in the first place. Is it to watch the ever-evolv­ing quest for get­ting to the fin­ish line first? Or does it in­volve other fac­tors, too? Is it as much about the smells and sounds and vi­bra­tions that have char­ac­ter­ized this sport as it is the quick­est e.t.?

—DREW HARDIN

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