Tesla Model S race car makes its debut, looks to electrify racing fans next year

In racing, some series rely on purpose-built cars, while others use modified production models that fans can relate to a bit better. That dichotomy is now emerging in the nascent electric-racing sphere.

First came Formula E, which uses its own open-wheel racers, and now we have the Electric GT Championship (also known as the Electric GT World Series). Its organizers plan to use modified Tesla Model S sedans, and the first race-prepped car made its debut Tuesday at an event in Ibiza, Spain.

Announced in March, the Electric GT series will kick off next year. Organizers wanted a race series for electric cars that used actual production models and, as the fastest electric road car around by a significant margin, the Model S was really the only thing that fit the bill. Other models could be added to the series in the future, but for now,  Electric GT is 100 percent Tesla.

While there are many Model S variants, Electric GT will only use the discontinued P85+ version because it’s the highest-performance rear-wheel drive version. Organizers wanted to stick with rear-wheel drive because it is generally considered to be better-suited to track driving, even though all-wheel-drive versions of the Model S offer better performance. The less-complicated rear-wheel drive setup will also make maintenance and repairs easier, organizers believe.

The powertrain remains stock, but the Model S still got an extensive makeover for racing, including modified suspension and steering. Fender flares and a big rear spoiler headline the exterior changes, while the interior was gutted to save weight. That’s essential, as the stock Model S weighs well over 4,000 pounds, which is pretty heavy for a road car, let alone a race car. The giant 17-inch touchscreen didn’t get thrown out, though.

Electric GT hopes to sign up 10 teams, which will field two drivers each. The inaugural season will consist of seven events, including a 20-minute practice session, 30-minute qualifying session, and two 60-kilometer (37-mile) races. The seven events will all be held in Europe, although Electric GT is also planning North American races that won’t be part of the championship.