Volkswagen's return to motorsport running an electric car at next year’s Pikes Peak International Hillclimb might seem like an odd move – but it’s actually an inspired one.

For the uninitiated, the annual event is held every July on a 12.42-mile, 156-turn course that winds up the Colorado mountain. The course averages a gradient of 7.2% and features 4720ft of climbing, finishing at the 14,110ft summit of the mountain.

Volkswagen confirms Pikes Peak entry for 2018

First run in 1916, Pikes Peak has a rich history, but while there have been occasional manufacturer entries, it’s largely the preserve of privateers and enthusiastic amateurs. So why is Volkswagen going to the effort of creating an electric competition specifically for a somewhat niche one-off hillclimb? Wouldn't the firm be better off joining the massed ranks of manufacturers (including rivals Mercedes and BMW) joining Formula E? But here's the thing: Pikes Peak can do something for electric cars that Formula E can't: allow them to compete against combustion engine-powered rivals on a level playing field. In fact, they might even have an advantage.