It was around a week before the ‘Day of Light’ event when I received a message from e-racing365’s Editor Sam Smith saying, “You’re going to love what we’ve got lined up for you.”
Soon I found myself heading to southern France, not only to chase stories in the Electric GT Championship, but to actually take the series’ Tesla Model S 85D for a spin around Circuit Pau-Arnos.
I was scheduled to drive after lunch, with the morning session being reserved for French GT ace Mike Parisy, EGT’s first confirmed driver Alvaro Fontes and a few other journalists.
To get ‘in the zone’ I had a run in the EGT e-kart as way of preparation. The kart, developed in Spain by Play and Drive, is a spectacular machine in its own right.
With two power modes – 30bhp and 50kbhp – the vehicle is a nimble machine performance-wise and is comparable to a two-stroke 125cc kart.
What’s most impressive about it, though, is the instant power delivery. A battery installed at the very back of the chassis affects weight distribution and makes the rear-end of the kart lively and tricky to drive.
The e-kart requires some serious skills to drive it on the limit. Its development driver Guilliaume Meura admitted that once he broke two ribs while driving the e-kart in anger without a rib-protection device! This gives you an idea about the little electric beast.
A few hours later it was time for the main event – the only existing prototype race car based on a Tesla four-door sedan. It was a great privilege to drive the only car of its kind and the very same machine previously tested by the likes of former Sauber and Williams F1 ace Heinz-Harald Frentzen, 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Stephane Ortelli and reigning Formula E champion Lucas di Grassi.
Circuit Pau-Arnos turned out to be a tricky little track, tight and twisty with spectacular elevation change. And if I was concerned about anything it was about the track, or lack of familiarity with it. Luckily, I had Finnish racer Emma Kimilainen on hand to guide me through the experience.
Kimilainen, a very capable driver, with experience in such categories as Formula Ford and Scandinavian touring cars, took me around the track as a passenger.
Those three laps proved vital as I had a chance to get the feeling of where the track went. Then we swapped places and the big moment came. My first lap behind the wheel was a tempered one as we slowly followed another car with a cameraman in the boot.
At the end of that lap, the car in front headed to the pits, and I had a chance to turn my first lap in anger. I initially took it easy, slowly getting to grips with the car.
It was quickly evident that very soon the EGT Tesla handled beautifully, taking the corners as if on rails. The steering is precise and pointy, even though in my case I was a bit too tall to fit comfortably in the cockpit and my knees limited the steering movement to some extent. The suspension also works well, making this two-ton vehicle feel relatively light and nimble.
What impressed most, however, was just the acceleration. Like the kart, the power kicks in instantly. The moment you plant your right foot down, you can feel all that power being unleashed the very same moment, no waiting for the revs to rise.
The EGT car was built by a Spanish acing powerhouse Campos Racing. The outfit not only has extensive experience with EVs in motorsport, having been involved in Formula E since day one, but also with race cars based on four-door saloons via its World Touring Car Championship campaign.
Accordingly, the fact that the company was chosen to build the world’s first electric tin-top racer seems something of a no-brainer.
While EGT’s e-kart had the battery pack installed at the rear compromising the weight distribution compared to traditionally-powered equivalents, the EGT Tesla has all batteries installed in the floor, meaning that it actually lowers the center of gravity and improves the overall balance.
The prototype is based on the P85 version. The car is rear wheel drive and in current trim produces around 400bhp.
The spec to be used in next year’s championship will be based on newer P100DL version, will be all-wheel drive and will produce 778 bhp, nearly double the power of the current iteration.
Following his test in the car, Di Grassi suggested it has the potential to be the most powerful GT car out there and pace-wise can be a match for GT3 machinery. That’s not bad for starters.
A mist of uncertainty currently surrounds the future of the Electric GT Championship. One thing seems certain, though, electric-powered tin-tops will surely be a significant part of the motorsport landscape in the years to come.
Therefore, the Electric GT’s prototype Tesla, the very first existing car of this kind, can turn out to be something of a milestone in the history of e-racing.
E-racing365 would like to thank EGT and Influence Associates for the opportunity to drive the Electric GT