A New Race Series Aims to Win on Sunday, Plug in on Monday [w/ Videos]
Despite having a bumper crop of skeptics and naysayers all but rooting for its demise, the FIA Formula E World Championship – the world’s first all-electric circuit (Har!) racing series – seems to be here to stay, with Audi and Jaguar in the process of joining Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroën’s fledgling DS brand on the roll of participating manufacturers. Having said that, there is still one very big thing working against Formula E’s chances for greater popularity: The cars – open-wheeled single seaters – look nothing like anything you can go and see on the showroom floor at your local dozen-dealer auto mall. It’s the time-worn “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday!” maxim: Race cars that bear at least a passing, maybe-if-you-squint-at-50-paces resemblance to their roadgoing counterparts (Hi, NASCAR!) are much more likely to resonate with the fans in the stands and watching at home than purebred aerodynamic exercises. That’s why we’re curious to see how Electric GT World Series is received.
This new Euro-centric (at least initially) championship will use 20 identically-modified race-prepped examples of the Tesla Model S P85+, the rear-drive erstwhile flagship version of the American electric super sedan (Yes, we realize that makes this more of an electric touring car series, but just play along…), with 10 teams campaigning two cars each. According to series technical director and promoter Agustín Payá, the Model S powertrain and its myriad computer overlords will remain pretty much stock. The suspension, brakes and other chassis systems will be strengthened for track duty, and de rigueur competition components like roll cages, fire suppression systems and tow hooks (as well as downforce-adding bits like front splitters and rear wings as well as flared fenders to allow the fitment of fatter Pirelli tires) will be installed.
The official launch of the series will take place this coming Tuesday on the Spanish isle of Ibiza, with the actual debut season kicking off sometime next year. The seven-round tour will take place entirely on classic permanent road courses (in contrast to Formula E’s almost-exclusively street circuit calendar), with one round apiece in Spain (Catalunya), Portugal (Estoril), Italy (Mugello), France (Paul Ricard), Germany (Nürburgring GP Course), Great Britain (Brands Hatch), and the Netherlands (Zandvoort), some currently-cryptic plans for some non-championship exhibition rounds in the Americas. In addition to the obvious practice and qualifying sessions, each race meeting will feature two races, one during the day and one at night, both 60 kilometers (about 37 miles) in duration. What’s more, races will be livestreamed via Twitch, Periscope and YouTube. We’ll be curious to see how this series is received by the racing world and, more importantly, by manufacturers, as the organizers say they are already eager to start moving away from the spec-racing model. Given the direction and speed the industry is moving toward electrification, we don’t think they’ll be waiting very long…