The mods you need to make a Tesla Model 3 into a competitive racer

J.A.
By J.A. Ackley
Apr 16, 2024 | Tesla, ev, Model 3, Tesla Model 3, electric cars, Electric Race Cars | Posted in Features | From the April 2023 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: Larry Chen

What’s sleek, low and offers a ton of power? The Tesla Model 3. 

Sure, you may not see it at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (or many 15-minute races, for that matter), but thanks to strong handling and virtually instantaneous power, this EV has become a force in settings as diverse as local autocrosses, One Lap of America and Pikes Peak.  …

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Comments
Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
2/28/23 11:16 a.m.

Exciting to see what the future holds for EV race cars, as it seems like we're just now scratching the surface of mods and upgrades.

CrashDummy
CrashDummy Reader
2/28/23 12:08 p.m.

Seems like a great tool for trying to win at high level autocross or other specific events (like Pikes Peak) but seems like it's still a terrible tool for general enthusiast fun with cars.

I can't imagine anyone would prefer this experience to the typical 100+ miles of flat out lapping that you can get at a typical track day in a tradition car car: Here’s how Chang typically manages his day with the Tesla Model 3: “If we’re going for the fastest lap, we do two sessions in a day–one in the morning (we’ll get three laps) and one towards the end of the day, after it fully charges. If you don’t mind having a lot less power, with a 50% charge you could do probably four laps before it pulls all of the power because of the temperatures.”

The other issue, that wasn't really mentioned in the article, is that a lot of the track events I sign up for have a blanket "No EVs" rule. For example: https://www.tracknightinamerica.com/events/2002697-track-night-2023-new-jersey-motorsports-park-april-26 

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/28/23 12:44 p.m.
CrashDummy said:

The other issue, that wasn't really mentioned in the article, is that a lot of the track events I sign up for have a blanket "No EVs" rule. For example: https://www.tracknightinamerica.com/events/2002697-track-night-2023-new-jersey-motorsports-park-april-26 

Weird, I've never seen a "no EV" rule at any of the events I've been to.  I wonder if it's a regional thing?  Or maybe just SCCA being conservative?

As for the small number of ideal laps thing, to an extent that's true of any car.  Qualifying or TT sessions, the fast guys will do 2 or 3 laps and then pit, because once the tires get hot they'll never go as fast.  Mix that with the track's tendency to get slower in the afternoon and you've got at most 4-6 laps to do a fast time. 

For non-competitive track day fun, I see model 3s at the track all the time.  They do usually wind up missing a session in order to make enough time to go into town and recharge at lunch, but otherwise they run as much of the day as anyone else.

 

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/28/23 1:35 p.m.
CrashDummy said:

Seems like a great tool for trying to win at high level autocross or other specific events (like Pikes Peak) but seems like it's still a terrible tool for general enthusiast fun with cars.

I can't imagine anyone would prefer this experience to the typical 100+ miles of flat out lapping that you can get at a typical track day in a tradition car car: Here’s how Chang typically manages his day with the Tesla Model 3: “If we’re going for the fastest lap, we do two sessions in a day–one in the morning (we’ll get three laps) and one towards the end of the day, after it fully charges. If you don’t mind having a lot less power, with a 50% charge you could do probably four laps before it pulls all of the power because of the temperatures.”

The other issue, that wasn't really mentioned in the article, is that a lot of the track events I sign up for have a blanket "No EVs" rule. For example: https://www.tracknightinamerica.com/events/2002697-track-night-2023-new-jersey-motorsports-park-april-26 

My thoughts as well. I often wonder if it was really a smart choice for me to buy an ICE-powered dual-duty car in 2021 (I most often have this thought any time I see how much speed a Mini SE picks up on a straightaway), but this article says "yes." Right now on my 86, there are no artificial limiters in the ECU I can't flash out of the way (Rev limiter? Bumped up and smoothed out. Top speed limiter? Safely tucked away somewhere north of 400kph). The only thing that causes any performance dropoff between going onto an opening lap and running out of gas is tire heat, and I think my next set will fix that.

Hopefully not too far into the future there will be more modder-friendly EVs with better cooling and less weight.

kb58
kb58 UltraDork
2/28/23 1:36 p.m.

Mods to make it into a race car: remove half the weight... well that's not going to happen. Given that, enormous brakes, unless of course it can't run long enough to overheat them.

I remember a review of the Plaid model, with the reviewers saying the power plant was about 10X what the brakes could handle, and that any racing other than drag racing could put it in limp mode due to hot brakes, or in a ditch.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/28/23 1:44 p.m.

Meanwhile, I've seen a C5 Corvette overheat in about 5 laps of our local track. Not all cars are bulletproof track cars right out of the box, even performance cars :)

EVs have characteristics that make them difficult to beat in certain types of competition. ICEs have characteristics that make them difficult to beat in certain types of competition. Get the right tool for the job. 

While I'm not sure I'd call a Model 3 "sleek and low" - more like "dorky" - this article is a good insight into what it takes to make one work better in competition, just like all the articles on how to make JG's Corvette work reliably in a track environment.

STM317
STM317 PowerDork
2/28/23 8:03 p.m.
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:
CrashDummy said:

The other issue, that wasn't really mentioned in the article, is that a lot of the track events I sign up for have a blanket "No EVs" rule. For example: https://www.tracknightinamerica.com/events/2002697-track-night-2023-new-jersey-motorsports-park-april-26 

Weird, I've never seen a "no EV" rule at any of the events I've been to.  I wonder if it's a regional thing?  Or maybe just SCCA being conservative?

I bet it's safety/insurance related. EV fires are a whole different animal.

wvumtnbkr
wvumtnbkr GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/28/23 8:22 p.m.

Njmp also has state troopers there to give you tickets if you cause an infraction.

 

They will also get mad and make you use a different fueling rig if it isn't a dot approved gasoline (red) jug....

 

Ask me how I know. 

BAMF
BAMF HalfDork
4/3/23 9:29 p.m.
kb58 said:

Mods to make it into a race car: remove half the weight... well that's not going to happen. Given that, enormous brakes, unless of course it can't run long enough to overheat them.

Au contraire, mon frere. Solid state batteries might make that a reality.

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/3/23 10:50 p.m.

In reply to BAMF :

Solid state batteries are the 100 mpg carburetor of the EV world. We'll see if Toyota can follow through with their claim that they'll be in production in 2025. Toyota was also leading the charge (har har) for hydrogen fuel, of course...

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