Electric GT: Tesla goes racing

Electric GT: Tesla goes racing
Electric GT: Tesla goes racing

Crazy track variant set for all-new zero-emissions championship

Electric-car racing has taken off in a big way thanks to the success of Formula E for single-seaters, and now a brand new series for zero-emissions GTs is hot on its heels. The Electric GT championship is due to start in the summer, and it’ll initially be contested by the track-prepared Tesla Model S P100DL.

With a focus on cars that resemble road-going EVs, the series is hoped to embrace further models from other manufacturers as time goes by. They’ll take their cue from the racing Tesla, with its flared arches and large wing. Underneath the pumped-up carbon fibre panels sit racing suspension and Pirelli-shod 18-inch wheels. An FIA-standard rollcage protects anyone in the stripped-out cabin.

The Model S P100DL’s lack of noise is the main departure from similar petrol-powered GTs. Championship boss Mark Gemmell explains: “The changes we’ve made are quite straightforward, because we’ve used the P100D road car’s standard battery and motors.” He continues: “The racing car is 25 per cent lighter [about 500kg], so it’ll be under less stress.” It’s unofficially estimated to weigh around 1600kg.

The electric-propulsion system makes 778bhp and 734lb ft, which means the P100DL can hit 62mph from the series’ mandatory standing start in 2.1 seconds; 0.3sec better than the road car, on a par with a Formula 1 car and 0.9sec faster than anything in Formula E. Top speed is 155mph. “It’d be insane not to do standing starts,” Gemmell says. “Seeing 20 of these cars launch into turn one will be very exciting.”

After the inaugural Electric GT series’ opening round at Silverstone on 12 August, it will move to Assen in the Netherlands and then Germany’s Nürburgring. Next is Portugal’s Algarve International Circuit, Misano in Italy and Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, with a closing event at Paul Ricard in France on 25 November. That means the series covers just 15 weeks.

Gemmell explains: “Having the races so close together means we can keep a good rhythm. It also helps to engage the audience more; if you have a big gap in the calendar, people can lose interest.”

EGT fans will be able to get up close and personal with the action via live video from the cars’ cabins, as well as “a non-distracting heat map of support” which lets fans at home use social media to ‘like’ a particular driver. The ‘virtual cheer’ will register on the infotainment screen in the corresponding Tesla, so spurring on each driver during the race.

Gemmell says the driver-fan interaction will be two-way: “By removing the engine noise, the driver can also interact more with spectators. In normal motorsport, where the car is loud, the driver in their helmet can seem like a bit of a robot. In EGT you’ll be able to hear drivers in the car easily; they’ll become a human being again.” He compares the “empathetic” experience with hearing a tennis player’s effort as they strike the ball.

EGT races last until the leading car has covered 37 miles. This equates to around 17 laps at Silverstone. Two races will be staged at each event: one in the day, the other at dusk. Twenty identical cars divided into two-car teams will contest the first race.

No driver’s identity has yet been revealed, but Gemmell promises they’ll be “fantastic, quality professionals”. Support for the series has already come from BTCC’s Tom Onslow-Cole, sports car racer Oliver Webb and former F1 test driver Dani Clos. Women are hoped to play a big role in the championship, too. Gemmell explains: “We want to involve women in every role: as drivers, in teams and as marshals.”

With the new series’ introduction, zero-emissions motor sport will take a significant stride forward. Gemmell again: “People are still saying electric cars will make life more dull and drab. Electric GT will prove that this is not the case.”

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