He is the unsung hero and secret pacemaker behind the successful Pikes Peak project: Dieter Depping. The man from Hannover has been a motorsport test and development driver for Volkswagen for 16 years. Without him, the twelve titles in the World Rally Championship (WRC), a further two titles in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (WRX), the three Dakar victories with the Race Touareg, and the many class wins at the Nürburgring 24 Hours would have been inconceivable. Or, as Romain Dumas puts it: “Dieter was my second throttle foot. Without him, the record on Pikes Peak would not have been possible”.
“The outstanding work that Dieter Depping does for Volkswagen Motorsport is of vital importance,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “Every one of our successful motorsport projects has received a lot of valuable input from Dieter. Whenever we have entered new territory, Dieter has been a reliable test and development driver and a genuine success factor. He played a decisive role in the development of the I.D. R Pikes Peak.”
How is that possible, when there are such fundamentally different categories of motor racing? “You need a little bit of talent,” laughs Depping. “And you obviously have to focus on the tests and tasks in question, and to acclimatise yourself accordingly. This year, I had to switch between the development of the I.D. R Pikes Peak, the Polo R Supercar for the World Rallycross Championship and the coming Polo GTI R5. It takes me one or two runs – then I can give the engineers the feedback they require.”
The 500-kW (680-PS) I.D. R Pikes Peak, in particular, demanded great adaptability. “After 30 years of motorsport with some very loud combustion engines, driving with an electric engine is rather silent. As such, you are missing an important sensation, an indicator for your timing and speed when driving.” This was a big change for the 52-year-old: “You only have the throttle, brake, and one single forwards gear. As such, you need a bit of time to get used to this new world. Once you do, however, it is incredible fun.“
Only two drivers have ever completed the full Pikes Peak route with the I.D. R Pikes Peak – Romain Dumas on his record-breaking run, on which he completed the entire route with the prototype in one go for the first time. And: Dieter Depping. During the rare and brief tests on Pikes Peak, he completed one run over the full distance. “That first run was not about the time, but it still yielded a really good one,” says a grinning Depping