There’s no official record up what’s called “Heaven’s Gate” road. About 900 miles southwest of Beijing, the 6.8-mile two-lane strip, also called Tongtian Avenue, takes 99 sharp turns while climbing Tianmen Mountain from 650 feet above sea level to 4,265 feet. A Range Rover Sport SVR ran it last year, with Chinese race car driver Ho Pin Tung at the wheel, finishing in 9:51. Before that, a well-heeled Italian amateur who likes to close roads to set times drove a stock Ferrari 458 up the slope in 10:31.
Neither of those attempts should bother the I.D. R, so Volkswagen’s looking for a more representative benchmark. The carmaker will re-create the road online and open it to gamers to set a virtual record. Romain Dumas, the same Frenchman who drove the I.D. R to records at Pikes Peak and Goodwood, will then try to beat the best the digital cowboys can do.
The event is part of Volkswagen’s push to promote its coming electric I.D. range and the China-specific models planned for sale. The Germans have been trampling on China’s home team in the process, meaning the EV maker NIO. The I.D. R broke the NIO’s EV record at Goodwood last year, and NIO currently holds the EV lap record at the ‘Ring. Come September, VW could rub NIO’s nose in it in NIO’s back yard. All hail friendly competition.