Electric GT Championship: jolting motorsport’s new series to life

With Formula E having blazed a trail in electric racing, the way is clear for other green series to make an impression. Black Book’s Richard Partridge talks to Mark Gemmell about one such effort, the Tesla-running Electric GT.

Electric GT Championship: jolting motorsport’s new series to life

The inspiration of Mark Gemmell, Electric GT aspires to be a GT Race series competing in Europe and, eventually, at venues in the Americas and Asia. Formula E has made a ground-breaking impression on the motor racing map, leaving the road navigable for other motor racing series to adopt the electric car. It seems the GT category would be an obvious choice .

Speaking at the 2016 edition of Sportel Monaco, the global sports media convention, Gemmell explains: “The only car on the market that fits the GT category at the moment is the Tesla Model S. However, when there are other manufacturers with similar products, we’d be happy to speak to them as well. In a nutshell, GT races will help the industry expose their technology to the stresses of racing and prove to the public that the cars are able to meet those demands.”

With Barcelona already in the calendar for September 2017, Mark believes “it would be imprudent to think we could go to a Formula E-style global event straight away”.

“That kind of thing requires deep pockets,” he says. “It makes sense for us to stick to a geographical area that offers a lot of support infrastructure and a lot of circuits. We are pretty pleased that both Barcelona and Paul Ricard recognise the value of bringing electric racing to the circuit.” Other circuits rumoured to be part of the proposed seven-race series include Estoril, Zandvoort and Nürburgring.

Gemmell says that “it is our intention from the beginning to have drivers and teams from around the world and it won’t take too long for us to be racing in North America and beyond”. It is proposed that following the seven-race series in Europe, Electric GT will then move to North America for a three-race test series.

The car itself weighs 500kg less than a standard Tesla S, with large parts of the bodywork and interior furnishings removed. With the assistance of Tesla engineers There have been modifications to the brakes and suspension but none to the drive train itself, which means that the car the public are seeing on the track is the one they could possibly buy. If the series does get off the ground, then clearly there could be a significant sales impact for Tesla.

The financial model is designed to make the sport accessible to both existing players in motorsport and those who might be attracted into it due to environmental and sustainability issues.

“We’ve had many conversations with potential teams and those include players who are already resident in Formula E as well as new players who have the enthusiasm to see electric cars racing,” says Gemmell. “For example, we are talking to people from the tech world in the US who have money to pay for a team and want to see this happening.”

Attracting teams is clearly Gemmell’s number one focus at the moment. “We’ve got to a precise figure of €787,000 for running two cars - which includes all the logistics costs as well as race costs. There are other expenses outside that, including your pit crew, tyres and accommodation. So for roughly €1 million, you can run a team for a year.”

The intention is that the teams can offset their costs via sponsors. The Electric GT Championship will keep 30 per cent of the car-related inventory and the teams can sell 70 per cent, if they wish, to brands who favour green technology and sustainability. Mark feels that “selling that space on two cars could bring in €1.4 million over a full set of races”.

“We are trying to make it so that teams can viably have a useful business,” he adds.

So far the championship has attracted partners working on a barter-type basis, with Pirelli the main one. Other notables include DHL, for logistics, and legal partner Baker Mckenzie. However, whether the series can attract real cash in a weak sponsorship market is debatable. Clearly, without significant TV or streaming coverage, viewers and consequently sponsors will be thin on the ground until the series gets off the ground.

For more information please see www.electricgt.com