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Meet the "monster": Inside Hyundai's Ioniq 5 N Pikes Peak racer

Hyundai Ioniq 5 N Pikes Peak front tracking
Hyundai Ioniq 5 N Pikes Peak front tracking

Britain’s ‘King of the Mountain’ will return to Pikes Peak this Sunday for the 102nd running of the great International Hillclimb. But this time, expat Robin Shute has lined up something entirely different for the 12.42-mile, 156-turn Colorado mountain sprint. Instead of shooting for his fifth overall victory in six years in his self-prepared Unlimited class Wolf sports racer, the Norfolk-born Pikes Peak specialist has accepted a welcome diversion to set new EV benchmarks with Hyundai.

Shute will race one of two steroidal Ioniq 5 N TA Spec production racers, with Hyundai’s part-time World Rally Championship star Dani Sordo in the other one. Shute himself and fellow engineer Tim Whitteridge have led the development of the modified electric SUVs, which are run by former Indycar ace Bryan Herta’s eponymous squad.

They have also worked on a pair of unmodified production models, to be driven by three-time King of the Mountain Paul Dallenbach and a former racing ally of the late Ken Block, Ron Zaras.

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“The Ioniq 5 N is a fabulous road car, so it was really exciting to be asked,” says Shute, who was approached for the project in December last year. “To work with a major car maker and Bryan Herta to create a Pikes Peak monster was something I couldn’t turn down.”

Hyundai has previous at Pikes Peak, dating back to 1992, when Rod Millen won a showroom stock division in a Scoupe. It returned in 2012, the first year the course was fully paved, setting a mark of 9min 46.164sec with a Genesis Coupe driven by Millen’s son Rhys.

That time is the one Shute has set a personal aim to beat as Hyundai creates fresh targets for modified and production electric SUVs, using the ‘The Race to the Clouds’ to boost the launch of the Ioniq 5 N in the US.

Shute was delighted with the “free rein” that Hyundai gave him. “It’s amazing to have its wealth of resource, and in a compressed timeline as well,” he says.

Robin Shute
Robin Shute

So what did he modify? “It’s built in the true spirit of a Time Attack car, so it’s a completely stock drivetrain and bodyshell but stretched out with Pikes Peak mods. The aero kit we’ve created comprises of a flat floor, a large rear wing and a sculpted front splitter, plus dive planes, front-wheel vents and side skirts. So it’s pretty comprehensive: it has more downforce than a GT3 car.”

Fat 18in Yokohama slick tyres, three-way adjustable Penske dampers and GT3-style Alcon brakes add to the enhanced spec.

“The thing is so heavy, even with all the weight saving and stripping out we’ve done: still around 2100kg. So you need something good to stop it,” says Shute. “On the drivetrain, Hyundai had some head room to give us a little more power and torque: 687bhp, rather than the 641bhp we started with. It has been cool working with their engineers, on a lot of software work and understanding of the car.”

So, what’s it like to drive? “A lot of fun. The road car is the most fun EV I’ve driven, because it drives like a Group B rally car. It’s got all that power, all-wheel drive and a playful chassis. When I first drove the Ioniq [5 N], actually it reminded me of a French hot hatch with rear-wheel drive. Then the race car is that on steroids, with a lot more grip and downforce, and it goes a good bit quicker still. It’s amazing how much you can throw the thing around when it’s 2100kg. You’re really pushing the limits of adhesion.”

Drivers require an oxygen feed for the 4720ft climb to the summit’s altitude of 14,115ft. Shute loves it, because the mountain remains “one of the ultimate proving grounds”. But time for full runs on what is a public road is usually limited to the race itself, with drivers practising the course bit by bit – unless you’re with a major manufacturer.

“We did a private test early last week,” says Shute. “We got seven full runs in with the two modified cars: do one, bring it back down and charge it, do another run in the other car, come back down, jump in the first and repeat. I did more full mountain runs in that day than in the rest of my Pikes Peak career, and I’m a four-time winner!”

Meanwhile, Shute is still plotting to achieve his ultimate ambition: to beat the overall record of 7min 57.148sec, set by Romain Dumas in Volkswagen’s ID R prototype EV in 2018. He’s building a new car to do exactly that in future years. But wouldn’t it be cool if Hyundai were to lend him a hand and steal that record for Korea? The thought has occurred, says Shute with a smile.

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