The Volkswagen ID.4 Is the First Production EV to Sling Baja Dirt at the Mexican 1000

As exciting as racers like the King of the Hammers SUVs are, the most extreme examples typically share little with their road-going namesakes. This is why it’s arguably more exciting when a manufacturer takes a genuine production car racing. And as more electric cars and trucks start hitting the roads, that also means more EV racers like the Lordstown Endurance. This brings us to the Volkswagen ID.4 competing in this year’s NORRA Mexican 1000 in Baja.

The 2021 NORRA Mexican 1000 is racing through Baja—and the electric Volkswagen ID.4 is taking part

First, a point of clarification.

A white-and-green classic Volkswagen Beetle racing in the Baja Peninsula desert in the 1972 NORRA Mexican 1000
A classic Volkswagen Beetle racing in the 1972 NORRA Mexican 1000 | Bob D’Olivo/The Enthusiast Network via Getty Images/Getty Images

Although the NORRA Mexican 1000 takes in Baja, it’s not the Baja 1000. Instead, it’s a multi-day race that stretches out over 1000 miles across the Baja Peninsula, Autoweek reports. And since it started back in 1967, it pre-dates the Baja 1000, Top Gear reports.

For 2021, the NORRA Mexican 1000 route is 1,141 miles long, which includes 893 miles on dirt, sand, and rocks, Roadshow reports. And, as always, there are a variety of classes for racers to choose from. Entrants run the gamut from high-end Trophy Trucks to near-stock scrambler motorcycles to classic dune buggies. Last year, a few racers competed on vintage Vespa scooters. This year, though, something new is coming to Baja: the electric Volkswagen ID.4.

To be clear, it’s not the first EV to race here. In 2013, electric-conversion shop EV West collaborated with Strategic Racing Designs on a Mexican 1000 electric racer, Road & Track reports. However, that car, the SRI EV1, wasn’t based on any production vehicle.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 competing at this year’s race isn’t some tube-frame look-alike. That’s because VW is treating the NORRA Mexican 1000 as a kind of development testbed for its electric crossover, Autoblog reports. However, because the Baja Peninsula can quickly break unprepared vehicles, Volkswagen did modify it a bit.

How did Volkswagen prep the 2021 ID.4 for the 2021 NORRA Mexican 1000?

The side view of the blue 2021 NORRA Mexican 1000 Volkswagen ID.4 racer in Baja
2021 NORRA Mexican 1000 Volkswagen ID.4 side | Volkswagen

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It’s slightly odd to see Volkswagen entering the ID.4 in a desert race, considering the automaker pulled out of racing in 2020. That being said, Volkswagen has a claim to Baja fame: a Beetle dune buggy won the very first Mexican 1000 in 1967, The Drive reports. And, to be fair, VW isn’t funding a full-blown program.

Instead, the NORRA Mexican 1000 ID.4 is being driven by pro racing driver and Volkswagen brand ambassador Tanner Foust. Foust’s racing team is also overseeing management, while Rhys Millen Racing is handling the crossover’s prep-work. Millen, you may recall, raced that record-breaking Bentley Continental GT at Pikes Peak. In short, this EV is in some capable hands.

The front 3/4 view of the blue 2021 NORRA Mexican 1000 Volkswagen ID.4 in the Baja Peninsula desert
2021 NORRA Mexican 1000 Volkswagen ID.4 front 3/4 | Volkswagen

The racing-spec Volkswagen ID.4 keeps its stock powertrain, Motor1 reports. Since it’s an ID.4 1st Edition, that means an 82-kWh battery pack and an electric motor rated at 201 hp and 229 lb-ft driving the rear wheels. And to keep it charged, Volkswagen is bringing a biofuel-powered 50-kW charger to Baja, MotorTrend reports. Helpful, given the stock crossover’s 250-mile range.

However, while its powertrain is stock, the Mexican 1000 ID.4 is beefed up significantly elsewhere. It has a 2” lift, rally-spec coilover shocks, and stronger suspension components, Roadshow reports. The crossover also rides on 18” wheels with Yokohama Geolander all-terrain tires and has multiple steel skid plates. Rhys Millen Racing even raised the radiator by two inches to improve the approach angle, Top Gear reports.

The rear view of the stripped-down interior of the 2021 NORRA Mexican 1000 Volkswagen ID.4
2021 NORRA Mexican 1000 Volkswagen ID.4 interior rear | Volkswagen

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Inside, the standard Volkswagen ID.4 interior has been stripped down and replaced with a roll cage and racing seats complete with harnesses. But while the NORRA-ready ID.4 has several display screens to keep track of its condition, as well as regenerative braking, there is one thing it doesn’t have. To maximize the range, it doesn’t have A/C.

How did it due out in the race?

Unfortunately, it’s too early to tell if the race-prepped Volkswagen ID.4 will survive the Baja Peninsula. The 2021 NORRA Mexican 1000 started on April 25th, 2021, and doesn’t end until April 29th. So, we won’t know until then how well the EV did.

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Still, if the ID.4 survives, this might inspire others to race their own EVs in these types of races. Perhaps an electric-swapped classic Beetle dune buggy?

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