To be honest, I’m in love,” swoons Jean-Karl Vernay. This experienced racing driver, who has adapted from single-seaters and sports cars to become one of Europe’s best tin-top aces, isn’t talking about the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR) in which he’s a title contender for Hyundai. Instead, he’s pledging his amour for the new Pure ETCR series for electric saloons, in which he’s doubling up this year. In fact, the Frenchman is so in love with EV racing that he professes he would be happy to race nothing else “if there were more cars and it were more mature”. Give it time, JK, and there’s every reason to believe it will be.
So, what is Pure ETCR? In short, it’s a quickfire, short-form race series for electric touring cars that produce a potent 670bhp at maximum power, running on all-weather Goodyear tyres that aren’t far off road spec. It was supposed to be launched last year but was forced into delaying by the pandemic, and it has now got going with a five-event prologue series around Europe. It has popped up at Vallelunga in Italy, Motorland Aragón in Spain, at a popular street race festival in the Danish capital of Copenhagen and in mid-August at the Hungaroring, near Budapest, which is where we travelled to find out more.
The formula is the creation of European touring car godfather Marcello Lotti, whose WSC Group also created the popular petrol-powered TCR regulations that have proved a smash hit around the world. Eurosport Events, the race promoter behind the WTCR and the preceding World Touring Car Championship, has tuned into the EV hype to create and run Pure ETCR. It was in gestation for a long time, according to series director Xavier Gavory.
“I could see in 2007 and 2008 that Marcello was already talking about the electrification of touring cars,” says Gavory. “He was talking about how to make WTCC cars hybrid and regenerating power through braking, so it has been a very long journey. He was too far ahead at that time.”