Mitsubishi MiEV dominates hill-climb race
After the two Mitsubishi Electric Vehicles (EV) placed second and third overall in the recent Pikes Peak International Hill Climb challenge in Colorado, USA, ‘works’ driver Hiroshi Masuoka thinks it will just be a matter of time before EVs will start dominating races in most disciplines.
Masuoka, the multi awarded ‘works’ driver of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, finished in third place, overall, during the 2014 hill-climb challenge which is also known as “The Race to the Clouds.” Masuoka’s time was less than seven seconds away from the over-all winner who finished the 20-kilometer race with a time of 9:05.801, and less than four seconds behind his teammate, Greg Tracy.
Considered as the second oldest major car race in the US, the Race to the Clouds runs on a track that measures 20 kilometers with over 156 turns, climbing 4,720 ft (1,440 m) from the start at Mile 7 on Pikes Peak Highway, to the finish at 14,110 ft (4,300 m), on grades averaging seven percent. It is currently contested by a variety of classes of cars, trucks, motorcycles and quads. There are often numerous new classes tried and discarded year-to-year. On average there are 130 competitors. The latest class to join the series are EVs.
Mitsubishi’s challenger the Mitsubishi MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle’) Evolution, is an electric motor racing car produced in 2012 specifically made to contest the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) event. Through the years, the MiEV has undergone evolution and technical improvements in subsequent years, achieving podium positions in the 2014 PPIHC.
In the initial 2012 year of the project, with driver Masuoka, the team achieved a time of 10 minutes 30.850 seconds, placing 2nd in the electric vehicle class, some 15 seconds behind Toyota Motorsport’s TMG EVP002 driven by Furnio Nutahara.
In the 2013 PPIHC event the team’s MiEV Evolution II vehicles were driven by Hiroshi Masuoka and Greg Tracy and achieved times of 10:21.866 and 10:23.649 respectively, improving over the previous year despite encountering poor weather conditions. This put them around 35 seconds slower than the lead Electric vehicle of Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima (09:46.530).
In the 2014 PPIHC event the team entered two MiEV Evolution III vehicles, again driven by Greg Tracy and Hiroshi Masuoka. Tracy placed 2nd overall, with a time of nine minutes 8.188 seconds, fractionally behind the overall winning time of nine minutes 5.801 seconds of Romain Dumas in the 2013 Norma. Masuoka placed 3rd overall with a time of nine minutes 12.204 seconds. The team thus placed 1st and 2nd in the PPIHC Electric Modified class, breaking by 38 seconds the previous class record of 9 minutes 46.530 seconds which had been set by Nobuhiro Tajima in his E-RUNNER Pikes Peak Special in 2013.
“I truly believe that EVs are the racecars of the future!” Masuoko-san said after doing a demo-run for the Philippine motoring media at the Sodegaura Forest Race Way in Chiba prefecture.
“EVs are very different from gas-powered rally cars. For one, EVs are much heavier, because of the batteries. But with the evolution of materials and continuous improvement on the car, we will definitely improve the car, including its power-to-weight ratio.”
Describing how the EV’s handling felt while traversing the 20-kilometer hill climb, Masuoka-san said, “It’s more fun to drive. The acceleration is just unbelievable. Imagine, going from zero to 100kph in just three seconds, it’s just incredible!”
There were over 150 turns during the race; and with the motor running silent even at top speeds, the only thing I hear is the wind and the screech of the tires when I take the turns. It is such a surreal feeling to hear the tires squeal whenever I turn–but that sound helps me decide if I can take the turn faster or if I should take it slower.”
At the same time, Masuoka praised EVs as having a constant performance all throughout the race. According to Masuoka, unlike gasoline-powered cars which lost power as it progresses through the 4,300-meter hill-climb—because of the thinner atmosphere, the EV remained unaffected by the abrupt change in altitude.
“I very much like electric vehicles. Aside from it having very quick acceleration, it handles extremely well. With constant evolutions to the EVs, its just a matter of time before EVs can beat gas-powered cars in any race,” Masuoka-san said.