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Opel creates an electric rally car

Wednesday, 4th September, 2019 4:43pm

Opel will show off a rally-prepped version of its Corsa-e electric car at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month. The car will be eligible for the new Opel e-Rally Cup, sponsored by ADAC, the German equivalent of the AA.

The rallying Corsa-e won’t be much faster than the standard model. It uses the same 136hp electric motor as the upcoming new road-going Corsa-e, but there have been modifications elsewhere. Those include a Torsen differential between the front wheels, for extra traction on slippery surfaces, a roll-cage built into the bodyshell, modified suspension, and a data-logging system.

The e-Rally Cup will form part of the German Rally Championship over the next two years, and the plan is to attract up-and-coming rally stars to the new electric format. Opel is promising such drivers a ‘pyramid of support’ with the best of them progressing to the European Junior Rally Championship with the new Opel Corsa R2.

Opel is even hinting that, now that the company is part of the PSA Group, it could eventually see drivers who start rallying in electric Corsas move on to driving in rallying’s top flight, in a World Rally Championship Citroen.

“The Corsa-e is the electric car for everyone – fully suited to everyday use and absolutely affordable, attributes that equally apply to motor sport. The new Corsa is also fun to drive and particularly dynamic. Using the production car as the basis, we are the first carmaker in the world to have developed an electric rally car,” said Opel Chief Executive Michael Lohscheller.

“Opel has traditionally strong connections with rallying. We can look back with pride on numerous successes, including seven European championship titles as well as the World Rally Championship in 1982 with Walter Röhrl and Christian Geistdörfer in the Opel Ascona 400. Now we are moving forward with electric drive and fans will be amazed by the performance of our e-cup rally car.”

Hermann Tomczyk, President of ADAC Sport, added: “With the ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup we are bringing electric drive for the first time to mainstream sport and especially to young-driver support. The innovative concept and the cooperation with Groupe PSA opens new possibilities for us, especially in the support of young drivers. I am certain that the ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup will point the way ahead for motor sport far beyond the borders of Germany.”

Is the Corsa-e the first electric rally car, though? Well, it depends on how you define rally car.

Yes, it’s the first battery-powered car to compete in an FIA-sanctioned series, but there have been previous EV rally efforts. Scottish husband-and-wife team Chris and Julie Ramsey, for example, created a rally car out of a first generation Nissan Leaf, which competed in the trans-continental Mongol Rally in 2017.

Also in 2017, Cameron Davies, a UK-based rally driver, entered a modified Renault Zoe in the Adgespeed Rally in Wales, and finished the event with the 24th fastest time out of 55 competitors.

Meanwhile, New Zealand rally star Hayden Paddon is working with Hyundai to develop an electric rallying version of the Kona crossover, one that would have the sort of pace and endurance of a top-line World Rally Championship (WRC) car.

The WRC is also planning to introduce hybrid power for its cars from 2022 onwards.

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