A Tesla Model 3 performance electric car has swept to victory in one of the key categories in the prestigious Targa West 1,000kms road rally over the weekend, and might have challenged for an overall podium finish if it had access to a super-fast charging unit.
The Gemtek sponsored vehicle – driven by husband and wife team Jurgan and Helen Lunsmann – stunned the local racing community last year by easily winning the Targa130 category, for cars limited to a top speed of 130kms.
This year it upgraded to the Targa165 component – with a top speed of 165kms – by becoming the first Tesla Model 3 in the Southern Hemisphere to enter an FIA-sanctioned motorsport with a roll cage.
And it won again with some ease, just short of eight minutes, beating some high-spec fossil fuel cars including Porsche Cayman, with most of them running at a cost of three times the Gemtek Tesla budget.
The Gemntek Tesla finished ninth overall, behind the winning Lotus, and team leader Florian Popp says it may have challenged for a podium spot if it had access to a portable super-fast charger of 120kW.
As it it, the team was limited to 40kW charging – through a specially converted Hyundai Kona with DC-toDC charging, a “battery buffer” truck fitted out with an old Model 3 battery, also DC to DC, and another truck using diesel from vegetable oils sourced from McDonalds fast foot outlets.
The 40kW limit meant that the Tesla had to moderate its speed at certain occasions, particularly on the longer stages on the final days, to ensure it had enough juice in the battery. It had been running fourth overall after the first two days.
“We had to go slow on a couple of stages,” Popp said. “If we had a 120kW fast charger we could charge fast enough to challenge the really high performance cars. We would be a good chance at a podium.”
The Gemtek team has been entering Targa West for six years, with the aim of showing motoring enthusiasts – and performance drivers – that EVs are not just about sustainability and environmental benefits, but also performance.
“The reaction has been mixed,” Popp tells The Driven. “It has taken six years to slowly wear them down. We are certainly seeing in the last three years in particular that a lot of “motor-heads” are buying a Tesla as their second car at home.”
Still, Popp is proud of what was achieved in the 165 class, where it beat in the second placed Porsche Cayman by 7m 57s, with the Subaru, Hondas and Nissans further behind.
“That’s a pretty big gap between us and the rest of field,” he says. “For a $100,000 car to be competing against $800,000 cars, that’s impressive. The Tesla hasn’t missed a beat, it’s a demonstration of the caliber of the car.
“The top 10 of the competition leaderboard is a group of some of the state’s best cars and drivers, and for an unmodified car bought online to be seriously rivalling these is absolutely unheard of in the past 50 years of Targa Motorsport.”