Tianmen Mountain Road in the Hunan Province of China incorporates a dizzying 99 hairpin bends along 11.3km of mountainside road. At the summit, you arrive at 999 steps, all of which lead to Heaven’s Gate, a natural rock arch in the mountainside. This mythical gate is said to be a link between the mortal world, and that of the gods.
Reaching Heaven’s Gate is no mean feat. The demanding road that leads up the mountain towards this spectacle, is so formidable that there is no room for error. After the road comes the steps, which at their steepest sit at an imposing 45-degree angle. Whilst the 11.3km of winding road has been previously driven, no vehicle has ever taken on the immense task of both driving the road, then ascending the 999 steps all the way to the summit. Until now.
New Range Rover Sport P400e PHEV tackled the formidable 11.3km road with ease
Reaching the top requires a vehicle that combines performance and capability in equal measure, and what better place than the epic Tianmen Mountain Road to demonstrate the capabilities of new Range Rover Sport P400e Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Behind the wheel, and ready to take on the challenge, is Ho-Pin Tung, Le Mans 24 Hour Winner and driver for Panasonic Jaguar Racing in the Formula E racing series.
The build-up to the challenge started with testing in the UK, where Ho-Pin joined the team at Jaguar Land Rover’s testing facility in the Midlands. A model of the 45-degree angle steps waiting for them in China was built to practice on, but as our film shows, this testing wasn’t always straightforward.
“The Dragon Challenge is the hardest challenge I’ve ever been involved with because I can’t categorically say that we will succeed.”
The first section to be tackled by the new Range Rover Sport PHEV was the epic mountain road, usually only used by ECO buses, and by drivers specially trained for its 99 hairpin bends.
New Range Rover Sport PHEV combines power with superior dynamics, perfect for this first section of the Dragon Challenge. Delivering 404 horsepower from a combination of the 300hp Ingenium petrol engine and 85kW electric motor, its dynamic on-road capabilities were tested to the full by this demanding stretch of the road.
Each hairpin bend provides a trial of skill and capability, but the vehicle’s superior handling saw it manoeuvre through every bend, camber and gradient with poise and control.
With the slalom of turns now negotiated, the vehicle carefully navigated the lowest set of steps at the foot of Heaven’s Gate, bringing it to the final leg of the challenge: an extreme off-road climb up the towering steps.
The drive up the 45 degree angle steps had never been completed before
With a crowd now gathered in anticipation of what was about to be attempted and with Ho-Pin focused and ready to go, the ascent began. The instant torque from the electric motor, followed by the sustained power of the engine, powered the vehicle towards Heaven’s Gate.
As the vehicle made its ascent it began to quickly disappear into the fog surrounding the mountains, before emerging at the summit of the steps.
New Range Rover Sport P400e PHEV conquered Tianmen Mountain
With a combination of capability, hybrid power and driving skill, the team had successfully completed this monumental challenge - in the process becoming the world’s first vehicle to successfully conquer the turns and steps of Tianmen Mountain.
New Range Rover Sport P400e PHEV completed the Dragon Challenge in an impressive 22 minutes and 41 seconds.Closed Course. Professional Driver. Do not attempt. Optional Off-Road Tyres used.
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