Published on August 24th, 2020 |
by Jo Borrás
August 24th, 2020 by Jo Borrás
The Tesla Model 3 is quickly becoming a favorite among motorsports enthusiasts. It’s no wonder why — the car’s stiff chassis, ease of modification, and excellent torque-vectoring powertrain lend themselves to spirited driving, and the EV’s mountainous gobs of torque at 0 RPM certainly don’t hurt either. Still, a street car isn’t a race car. But … it’s surprisingly easy to turn a Model 3 into a hugely capable on-track performer in just a few easy steps.
Step 1: Model 3 Roll Cage — 15 min. Install
On a racetrack, safety is paramount. Now, we know that Teslas are incredibly safe cars, but racing at speeds that far exceed the legal limits brings new dangers. That’s why most tracks require vehicles to be fitted with additional safety features like fire suppressors, four- or five-point harnesses, and auxiliary roll cages.
In the past, adding a roll cage to your car meant you needed a friend who was a welder and a willingness to ditch your back seats. Recent advances in CAD and fabrication technology have made safe, stiff cages that can bolt in and out of your car quickly a real possibility, though, making the transition from daily driver to time-attack weapon that much easier.
How much easier? I’m glad you asked, because Instagram user From Where I Charge posted the answer to that question by getting an Unplugged Performance roll cage fitted into his Model 3 in 15 minutes. Here’s the timelapse video …
Step 2: Model 3 Brake Pads & Tires
Teslas aren’t cheap. That’s not to say they’re overpriced, by any means — it’s just saying that they’re not going with the lowest bidder when it comes to brakes and tires. Even so, the demands of a racetrack are significantly different from those of the street.
On the track, a tire’s need to deliver quiet, all-weather performance is all but gone. So, too, is its ability to absorb bumps in the road and isolate the driver from every little rut and wrinkle in the road. On the track? It’s the opposite. You want that feel, you want that stiffness, and — ultimately — you want every ounce of traction that tire can give you, even if it’s howling in protest the entire way.
Oh, and your track tire doesn’t have to last 40,000 miles.
Similarly, brake pads intended for track use have to meet much higher heat demands than passenger car pads without the huge dip in performance — called brake fade — that conventional pads experience after repeated, heavy use. They also don’t have to deliver the same low dust, low noise operation that most drivers look for in their daily-driven cars, be that a Tesla Model 3 or whatever else.
With a fresh set of Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R tires and high-performance pads installed, an otherwise stock Tesla Model 3 becomes a formidable track say weapon. Check out this one below, lapping a 1:41.0 at Laguna Seca. (That’s within half a second of Randy Pobst’s time at the same track in a top-shelf Toyota Supra!)
Step 3: Driver Upgrade
Last but OMG certainly not in any way least, no modification you can make to your car will be more effective than a driver upgrade. Better drivers get better times, and there’s no better way to get better than to spend time on a track with a professional instructor. Above, you’ll see racing driver and Motor Trend staple Randy Pobst (same guy from before) taking the wheel of a Model 3 at the last TeslaCorsa event.
TeslaCorsa calls itself “the world’s first exclusively Tesla on track experience for owners … founded to encourage Tesla owners to experience the limits of their cars in a professionally managed race track environment.”
The events themselves are somewhat loosely organized sessions where fun is put ahead of overall pace, and everyone is generally there to have a good time while sharing the tips and tricks they’ve found to keep their Tesla on its toes. Like my own track day experiences with the AMG Driving Academy and Porsche Club of America, these TeslaCorsa events are great fun, and I definitely recommend checking them out.
What about you guys? Do you dream of taking your own EVs out on the track to stretch their legs, or is the name of your game hypermiling and ultimate long-range efficiency? Take a minute or two to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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