The new zero-emissions Electric GT series aims to follow the lead of Formula E by injecting excitement into the image of electric vehicles.
The series, which will begin in the autumn, will initially be contested by track-prepared versions of the Tesla Model S P100DL. Formula E has showcased electric single-seaters, whereas EGT is based around cars that resemble road-going EVs.
At the moment, of course, there aren’t many performance-orientated pure EVs on the market, hence EGT’s initial focus on Tesla. However, the series is open to all and the hope is that more varied grids will be seen in the future.
The racing Tesla has beefed-up bodywork, with flared wheel arches and a large rear wing. The car sits on racing suspension and 18in wheels shod with Pirelli racing rubber. The interior has been fully stripped out and an FIA-standard rollcage has been fitted.
At first glance, you might mistake it for a petrol-drinking GT racing car, apart from the fact that it makes hardly any noise.
“The changes we’ve made to the car are quite straightforward because we’ve used the P100D road car’s standard battery and motors,” says championship boss Mark Gemmell.
The racing car has bodywork made from carbonfibre and although an official weight figure hasn’t been revealed, it is estimated to weight around 1600kg.
Gemmell says: “The P100DL is 25% lighter [about 500kg] than the road car, so the racing car will be under less stress.”
It’ll also be much quicker: tweaks to the rest of the electric propulsion system mean the P100DL makes 778bhp and 734lb ft and can cover 0-62mph in 2.1sec. That acceleration is not only 0.3sec better than the road car, but also neck and neck with a modern Formula 1 car.
A Formula E car requires a further 0.9sec to hit 62mph from a standing start. EGT races will have standing starts in order to showcase the impressive acceleration. The car can hit a top speed of 155mph.
“It’d be insane not to do standing starts,” he says. “Seeing 20 of these cars launch into turn one will be very exciting. You will get an interesting sense of power.”
Silverstone will host the opening round on 12 August. The following races will take the Electric GT circus to Assen in the Netherlands and then the Nürburgring to race on the German track’s DTM configuration.
After this, Portugal’s Algarve International Circuit, Misano in Italy and Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya will host a race each, before Paul Ricard in France closes the 2017 season on 25 November.
That means the inaugural EGT series is condensed into just 15 weeks, which Gemmell says is intentional: “Having the races so close together means we can keep a good rhythm. It also helps to engage the audience more; if you have a big gap in the calendar, people can lose interest.”
Maintaining interest is something EGT intends to do by pulling fans close to the action. Spectators will be able to stream live video feeds from each car’s cabin during races. They will also be able to engage with the drivers via what Gemmell calls “a non-distracting heat map of support”.
Put simply, a fan watching a race at home will be able to use social media to ‘like’ a particular driver who has impressed them. This support will be displayed for the driver on the Tesla’s infotainment screen, with the intention that it will encourage the driver much in the same way that a cheering crowd can spur on a football team.
The interaction between drivers and fans will be two-way, according to Gemmell: “By removing the engine noise, the driver can also interact more with spectators. In normal motorsport, where the car is loud, the driver in their helmet can seem like a bit of a robot.
In EGT you’ll be able to hear drivers in the car easily, [so] they’ll become a human being again.”
Gemmell compares the experience with watching a tennis match, where a player’s effort can be heard as they strike the ball.
“It gives you a tremendous degree of empathy with them,” he says. EGT races will be fairly short, with the chequered flag falling after the leading car has covered 37 miles, which will equate to about 17 laps at Silverstone.
There’ll be two races: one in the day and the other at dusk. The first race will be contested by 20 identical cars divided into two-car teams.
Although Gemmell won’t reveal the identity of any drivers who will be competing in the opening season, he says they will be “fantastic, quality professionals”.
Prior to the start of the series, EGT has established a drivers’ club that has attracted support from seasoned competitors such as British Touring Car Championship driver Tom Onslow-Cole, sports car racer Oliver Webb and former Formula 1 test driver Dani Clos.
“We’re also trying to get top quality women drivers involved, because that attracts another huge section of the public to the events,” says Gemmell.
“We want to involve women in every role: as drivers, in teams and as marshals.” When the lights go green at Silverstone in August, he thinks zero-emissions motor sport will take a significant stride into the future.
“People are still saying electric cars will make life more dull and drab,” says Gemmell. “Electric GT will prove that this is not the case.”