A Tesla Model 3 Just Became the First EV to Ever Win a Targa Rally

A Tesla Model 3 Just Became the First EV to Ever Win a Targa Rally
Photo: Ttt Motorsports Photography

Over the weekend a Tesla rally team proved EVs can go pretty fast, actually. They did this by beating a field of regular combustion engine rivals at an Australian Targa Cup event in a Model 3.

The Gemtek EV Racing team took first place in the Targa South West rally on Saturday. They won the Targa 130 category, where competitors are limited to speeds of 130 kilometres per hour over the race’s 250 kilometre length.

The Targa Cup event takes place in the outback of Western Australia. Competitors battle it out on both dirt and sealed roads in different stages.

According to Gemtek EV co-founder Florian Popp, it’s the first time an electric vehicle has won a event sanctioned by the international motorsport governing body, FIA. He said the result is more proof that electric vehicles are the future.

“It’s a great way for us to demonstrate the capability as well as the the work that’s required to prepare Australia for electric vehicles,” he said.

The birth of a Tesla rally team

Popp’s business, Gemtek, develops infrastructure for electric vehicles in WA — “[WA] has unique challenges like long roads and a short grid” — and launched the Tesla rally team in 2016 as a proof-of-concept.

“We started at the local Targa rally for the purpose of our own research and development, as well as to engage the local motorsports community,” he told Gizmodo Australia.

The team first started out entering events with an electric BMW. In 2018, the team purchased a Tesla Roadster and began entering events with that.

And early this year, a sponsor paid for a Telsa Model 3 Performance with the goal of winning an event.

“It wasn’t quick, we’ve learned a lot. The team keeps growing, and we keep adding to our mobile charging equipment along the way,” Popp said.

Transforming the Tesla to win the Targa Cup event

The Targa 130 class doesn’t require a full roll cage, like some other Targa events. But the team still had to make some changes to the Model 3 to take part.

“It’s a stock standard car, like a Tesla you’d buy at the shop. We hacked into it,” Popp said. “Changed the seats and installed a harness bar. So that took a bit of hacking to get around the airbag control and sensors.”

The race was close. It all came down to the last stage, but the Gemtek’s team handily beat the rest of the field by more than 4 minutes.

Popp is chuffed with the result. He hopes Australia’s politicians and decision-makers will take notice of the result as a sign that electric vehicles are the future of transport.

“We rely on cars for our transport, and electric cars, we’re dependant on a global supply industry,” he said. “And Australia has unique challenges, so we have to make sure we innovate for that.”