Electric GT series hits the track


What is it that compels a Scotsman with a background in software engineering - a man who, by his own admission, "knows nothing about motorsport" - to dedicate his professional life to launching a race series for Tesla's electric cars? Quite apart from the fact there are already so many various motorsport championships without enough teams and drivers to fill them all, the two-tonne plus Model S is so big and heavy that it's about as fit to go racing as a rhinoceros is to herd sheep.


Just imagine it: 20 lardy Tesla land whales lumbering around a race track, brakes cooking and batteries derating so rapidly with the effort of it all that after four or five laps they can hardly haul themselves up the next gentle incline. At least the ear-splitting hum of all those electric motors will add some wow-factor...

Yes, it's very easy to be cynical about a Tesla Model S racing series. You can't help but wonder exactly what demand it's supposed to satisfy. But Electric GT founder and CEO Mark Gemmell doesn't just see a demand for this sort of series. He reckons it's essential to the future of motorsport.

"It's time to embrace our electric future," he comments. "If you're worried about the environment it makes little sense to race, unless we do something to make the energy clean and abundant. If we do that, we can race all we want for evermore."


Gemmell is probably right. Over the past few years it's become increasingly clear that the future of motoring is electric, and so it stands to reason that in decades to come the world's car makers will want to show off the performance and agility of their battery powered cars in the arena of motorsport. Manufacturers have raced for decades to promote their wares and there's no reason to believe that will come grinding to halt just because they'll one day swap hydrocarbons for electricity.

Formula E will give those manufacturers a single-seater, it-looks-like-a-racing-car platform to show what they can do with a stack of batteries and a motor or two, but there isn't, as yet, a championship specifically for production-based, it-looks-like-a-road-car electric vehicles. Gemmell's Electric GT could be just that. It isn't a stretch to imagine that some day Porsche might enter its forthcoming Mission E electric saloon, and that Audi, Jaguar, Polestar and the rest might fancy a slice of the action, too.


When it kicks off next summer though, and for the foreseeable, Electric GT will be a single-make series. The plan is for 20 identical cars to compete throughout Europe with well-known GT and touring car drivers at the helm. The cars will be based on the Model S P100D, the twin-motor powertrain tweaked to deliver some 790hp and a 2.1 second 0-62mph time.

Renowned Spanish race team Campos Racing will develop and build the cars. They get functional aero, carbon bodywork, race-spec suspension and brakes, Pirelli tyres and, depending on who you ask, a weight loss of between 300 and 500kg. Apparently, at competition speeds the cars will have a range of just over 50 miles, which would be enough for a decent sprint race.

At a launch event at Pau Arnos - Electric GT's adopted headquarters - in the south-west of France I drove the Model S race car for a handful of laps. Except I didn't, because the only car that exists right now is actually based on the lesser, single-motor P85+. So although the car's straight line performance was lusty rather than neck snapping, I did see enough to be persuaded that the hefty Model S could be turned into a passable racing car. Even on rain tyres on a dry track there was very good grip, a neutral balance, rock solid body control and bundles of stability. It actually felt like a very capable track car, quite unlike any Model S I've ever driven.


But then the brakes started to fade after three laps and the motor lost some punch as the batteries ran down. Campos Racing still has lots of work to do if it's to build a proper racing car out of the Tesla, but I do now believe it can be done.

Electric GT still needs to sign up race teams to run the cars - so far it has one, SPV Racing - and inevitably it'll need to attract further sponsors if it's to make that first race happen. It's jumping through the FIA's hoops as you read this to secure proper accreditation too.

All of which leads us back around to that opening gambit. What is it that compels Mark Gemmell, a man with no background in motor racing, to launch a race series for electric cars? "We're living off fossil fuels at the moment and that isn't sustainable," he says. "The car industry is dragging its heels because it's easier to do what it's always done. But if the public demands the change, the industry will change on a dime. So how do we get everybody out there enthusiastic [about renewable energy]? We do fun things with it, like going racing. We get out on circuit, we go hell for leather fast, we scare ourselves to death and we have fun doing it."

So this isn't simply about giving Tesla's electric car a platform to go racing. Instead, Gemmell wants to harness the inherent thrill, excitement and glamour of motorsport to inspire the wider public to switch on to renewable and abundant energies. I'm a long way from convinced as I type this, but I'm willing to hang up my cynicism for the time being.

 

 

 

 

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Comments (120) Join the discussion on the forum

  • HardMiles 23 Nov 2017

    Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

    Just no.

    Racing should smell of unburnt fuel, sound like wasps killing each other whilst strangling eagles, I'm not for this at all.

    Just look at how big an event Revival is now, just shows we all want raw unbridled vicious cars, they way they used to be!

  • mylesmcd 23 Nov 2017

    HardMiles said:
    Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

    Just no.

    Racing should smell of unburnt fuel, sound like wasps killing each other whilst strangling eagles, I'm not for this at all.

    Just look at how big an event Revival is now, just shows we all want raw unbridled vicious cars, they way they used to be!
    Winter is coming Jon Snow.......................

  • 99dndd 23 Nov 2017

    Motorsport has always been a good place to test, develop and refine road car technology.

    We'll always have petrol car racing, we're still racing horses.

  • The Crack Fox 23 Nov 2017

    "Sustainable" - Please fk off with such language. How is building a new car, using all those materials, charging it, using all that electricity, and then racing it, which means going round in circles for no discernible reason, ever be "sustainable". Please, fk off, and I mean right off, not just a bit, properly off.

  • DapperDanMan 23 Nov 2017

    "Except I didn't, because the only car that exists right now is actually based on the lesser, single-motor P85D"

    Is that a typo? The D stands for Dual which is 4wd.

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