In January 2015, the 691-horsepower Tesla P85D roasted a 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger Hellcat at a Florida dragstrip, declaring once and for all that the electric performance car is here to stay. Luckily, someone recorded the event, and over 3 million YouTube views later, the two-and-a-half ton luxury sedan has become an unlikely performance icon. In the months since, we’ve seen the Model S match up against a Lamborghini Aventador, a Porsche 911 Turbo S, and a Ferrari 458 Italia among others, beating all of them off the line.
But for the most part, we’ve really only seen the Model S out drag racing, and that’s a shame. Because unlike American muscle cars of yore that cornered like an overloaded school bus, the Model S’s steering system was patterned after the Porsche 911, and we can attest that it handles like the German sports car more than the massive luxury sedan it is. So if you’re like us and have imagined what it would be like to see a field of racing-spec Model Ss silently tearing up some of the world’s greatest tracks, you’re in luck: The Electric GT World Series is coming for 2017, and all 10 teams will be competing in Teslas.
First reported by Transport Evolved, the series already has the support of the Fédération Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA), and the Royal Spanish Motorsport Federation, and hopes to launch its inaugural season in 2017. And as testament to the Model S’s reputation for being fairly robust, the series is likely to have far more in common with the FIA’s GT-Class races than its new Formula E competitions. Whereas the Formula cars run in 50-minute races, have a limited 140-mile-per-hour top speed, and need to be switched out halfway through the race because of battery life, Electric GT competition should be faster, longer, and generally more hardy. Save for the sound (or lack thereof), Electric GT should be world-class right from the get-go.
Speaking with Transport Evolved, Electric GT co-founder Agustin Payá laid out why the Model S is the perfect car to take racing: “It is the best zero emissions car on the road capable of racing on world class circuits in the GT category,” he said, adding:
In its production version it accelerates faster and provides better lap times than many combustion GT cars. We chose the Tesla Model S simply because it is one of the best cars ever made, and certainly one of the best 100% electric cars. We are convinced that sharing its impressive circuit racing potential will help to inspire many people about sustainable transport.
The series will be made up of 20 drivers and 10 teams. It will begin in Europe (where officials are negotiating for dates with iconic tracks like the Nürburgring, Donnington Park, and Estoril), before making its way to North America and Asia.
Somewhat surprisingly, the series won’t feature the P85D that was seen in last January’s viral video, or even the 90D that’s come out since. Instead, it will use the older configuration 416-horsepower P85+ model, which was the brand’s flagship until the dual-motor cars arrived in late-2014. Even though the P85 was recently discontinued, Payá explains that the rear-wheel drive setup of the older models provides more of a benefit on the track, and the simpler layout of the single-motor cars should make repairs easier.
Other than that, the GT cars shouldn’t be much different from the Teslas you can buy at your local Tesla Store (provided that your state lets you buy Teslas at a Tesla Store). “We are making only small changes to the production Model S P85+ such as improved braking and aerodynamics to increase high speed grip. We will strengthen suspension, braking cooling and steering as well as reducing overall weight,” Payá says. “The rest — powertrain, battery, programming — everything is original.”
In a rematch between the Tesla and Hellcat in April 2015, the Hellcat won. But put it up against a lightened, modified Model S on a track, and we know who we’d put our money on. Formula E has shown that EVs can be raced, albeit on their own terms. Electric GT and their competition-spec Teslas are out to prove that electric cars can dominate anywhere. We can’t wait to see a group of P85+s done up in full GT spec á la the Aston Martin Vantage GT3, silently waiting for the first checkered flag of 2017.