Racing’s Future Will (Probably) Be Electric

The all-electric Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy is being run as a support series to Formula E. Volkswagen obliterated the overall Pikes Peak record in an electric car. Bernie Ecclestone said last year that Formula 1 should go electric in 2021. And even NASCAR and IMSA have given lip service to the idea of electric racing. Heck, an all-electric eCopo Camaro recently made a nine- second pass at a drag strip. Clearly, something’s happening out there. Or is about to happen. Or might happen. Whatever.

It was time that I, Vaughn, did my part for e-motorsports. So I got a Tesla Model 3 Performance, the hot rod of electric cars, and went racing in the San Diego Region of the SCCA Solo Championship. That’s right, I autocrossed a 450-hp, 4,072- pound Tesla.

With 100 percent of its torque available as soon as the motors start turning, the Model 3 Performance was a silent killer on the course. And I don’t mean cone killer. My car had two motors: a four-pole induction motor in front and a six-pole internal permanent magnet motor in rear; 0-60 mph comes up in less than 3.2 seconds. Flooring the accelerator is like taking a windshield squeegee to the face. Your mug gets all contorted like a character approaching light speed in a science fiction movie.

I had a pretty good lap time, I thought. At least until the SCCA guy pointed out the slalom section I’d completely bypassed. There were two slaloms, ya see? There’s one over there, too. Oh, OK. Strangely, my times were about the same whether I ran one or both slaloms. Don’t know what that says about my talent.

Suffice it to say, though, that in the right hands, a car like the Tesla Model 3 could probably beat a lot of the cars that show up to your typical track day, at least on a short, tight track for a minimum number of laps. And the track mode feature of my Model 3 Performance was astounding, easily the most stable, entertaining and foolproof of any such system on any car. Hang the tail out like yesterday’s laundry and then just leave it out there as long as you want—until the tires pop, if you like. Usually, these systems allow a little bit of slip, then crank the fun down to about zero. Tesla just lets you have a ton of fun with it. Later, I went to a far corner of the parking lot and did a few of the best Formula Drift-style drifts I’ve ever done in any car since Aunt Madge’s rear-drive Buick in the snow in Rochester. You could stay in opposite lock all damn day. And the smooth way regen was incorporated into braking is seamless.

So, is the future of racing going to be electric? Eventually. Probably. But before you knock it, take a Model 3 Performance to a track. Only then should you pass judgment. You might say, “Guilty—of terrific fun!”

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