But was it really a case of breaking the rules or are competitors running scared?
Elon Musk started all of this. Just before the Model 3 Performance was launched he claimed that it would outperform a BMW M3. Those fighting words got many internal combustion engine enthusiasts hot under the hood and claimed the Model 3 was a one trick straight-line pony. It may beat the M3 in a straight line but when it comes to track performance or repeatable acceleration runs, it too would get too hot under the hood. Or in this case, under the floorboards, where the batteries in EVs tend to suffer from heat soak after a few spirited drives.
Testing of factory standard Model 3 Performance cars by various journalists have shown that this does indeed occur, but even a slow Model 3 Performance is still a very quick car. Sasha Anis, owner of MountainPassPerformance, offers tuning solutions for EVs and decided to take a customer's modified Model 3 Performance to the Global Time Attack Super Lap Event for a little experiment.
The event is the biggest of its kind in North America and the AWD category the Tesla entered allows any form of aero-modifications and as much power as you want as long as you run on gasoline and street tires. The Tesla came to the party a bit under-gunned, with no additional power or aero mods (at first), all at a high-speed circuit that does not play to its immense off the line acceleration abilities.
Still, they did fit sticky street legal Michelin PS4S tires, bespoke coilovers, upgraded brake lines and suspension components as well as a prototype stability control defeat device. Fortuitously, Tesla rolled out its Track Mode update the day of the event and this is what made it possible to go multiple laps before heat soak set in. One cool down lap was all that was required to get back up to pace again. Further pace came in the form of a carbon fiber front splitter and rear spoiler that cured some high speed instability issues.
The car eventually took a class win with a time of 1:59.12, a fraction quicker than the second-placed gasoline-powered competitor. Moments after receiving the trophy, however, they were disqualified. The reason? The second place guy protested that electricity was not an approved fuel according to the rulebooks.
The exact excerpt used stated ‘Hybrid drive is allowed only in full OEM form with no modifications to the drive, control or battery systems’. This seems open to interpretation in this particular case but the truth behind it is that the traditional competitors are scared of EVs. As Sasha Anis says, "This is the future, my friends. Embrace it."