Although some of Group Lotus’ recent plans have been scoffed at by many (myself included), the one aspect I ‘really’ approve of is Lotus’ move into rallying. After all, how can we not embrace the chance to see something modern and exotic join the slip-fest, even if it is only for a few FIA European Rally Championship events.
This week the Lotus International Rally team headed to the legendary rally Tarmac of St Remo, Italy, with works drivers Bernardo Sousa and Luca Rossetti. Their objective, to complete the final development tests prior to next week’s visit from the FIA to homologate the new Exige R-GT rally car.
The team will contest specific tarmac rounds of the championship in partnership with Italian team United Business, who won the title last year, but this is not the first time Lotus has competed in rallying, having previously won the 1981 World Rally Championship with the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus.
..things are coming together quickly. It’s really exciting.
Powered by a 298 bhp supercharged 3.5-litre V6 engine, the Exige R-GT weighs the regulation 1200kg (as per FIA R-GT technical regulations) and puts its power to the road via a 6-speed sequential gearbox, two homologated final drives and an LSD differential.
It’s the same basic powerplant as fitted to the Exige S, but 34 mm air restrictors to peg the power back under 300 bhp.
The Exige ran for 85km on Tuesday and 75km on Wednesday this week, and the testing was largely trouble free except for a small supercharger problem, which was remedied by changing the compressor belt.
The team will carry out another two-day test ahead of the R-GT’s race debut in FIA European Rally Championship on 19-21 April in Italy’s Rally 1000 Miglia.
Works driver, Bernardo Sousa, said: “I’m loving every km in the car, there is some work to do, but I’m sure that in the near future we will have some very good results, the car has great potential”
Claudio Berro, director of Lotus Racing, said: “The Lotus Exige R-GT’s development continues to go to plan and we were satisfied with the performance, mileage and data we got from the car and drivers.
We did a lot of work on set-up, and we should be perfectly prepared with a final two day test, schedule within the next ten days. Next week we’ll be having a visit from the FIA to homologate the car, so things are coming together quickly. It’s really exciting.”
The Exige R-GT is painted in Lotus’ iconic black and gold colour scheme, which looks fantastic when covered with a smattering of Imperian road grime.
Ten cars will be built this year, with seven allocated to the official team and European racing drivers.