A cloud of dust appears from the distance, a car sporting colourful stickers shoots over the crest into a long bend, the rear end slides out, dirt flies up, the driver brings his vehicle under control, brakes hard for the following hairpin bend and then straightens his car with pinpoint accuracy to be able to open the throttle. Back to full attack, a step on the accelerator – and he’s gone. A completely normal scene from a completely normal rally. Everything as usual, and then again not. Because something was different. That’s right – the sound. Somehow futuristic, but still cool. That was an electric car, wasn’t it?
The world premiere
That’s right, an electric car, or more precisely: the world’s first electric one-make rally car. The Opel Corsa-e Rally recently completed its first rally season with flying colours. Up to 15 of the fast electric cars from Rüsselsheim enriched the German rally scene in the ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup – sometimes viewed with scepticism by the traditionalist combustion engine community. But at the end of the day, it was classic rallying after all. Fast and spectacular, just the way the fans want it.
The ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup consisted of seven events in its debut season. And it proved that electric rallying works. Of course, the range of an electric car is always an issue, as is charging. With up to 60 special stage kilometres on one battery charge and the innovative charging infrastructure, which gave the rally cars enough juice again in less than 30 minutes. The purely electric charging solution developed by the specialists from eLoaded was a perfect match for the sustainability concept as well as the spirit of innovation inherent in the entire project.
THIS IS HOW THE INNOVATIVE CHARGING CONCEPT WORKS: In the solution developed jointly by eLoaded and Opel Motorsport, medium voltage with up to 20,000 volts is taken from the public power grid and reduced to 1,000 volts direct current with the help of a dedicated transformer. The green electricity from the grid flows into the special charging cubes. Each rally car has its own cube to plug into under the Opel Motorsport service tent (photo above). Thanks to two megawatts of total power, up to 18 vehicles can be charged simultaneously with 100 kilowatts – all while the teams are carrying out their normal service (photo below).
“Everyone has the same material.
If you want to win, you have to
drive better than the others.”
Timo von der Marel
The performance of the Corsa-e Rally was beyond reproach. A top chassis, perfect weight distribution and the high torque of 260 Newton metres provided the mostly young crews with a lot of driving fun. Of course, the better the car, the quicker the call for more power. But: has there ever been a racing driver who complained about too much engine power? And ultimately, it’s about a one-make cup for young teams who want to develop in this sport. And that is also possible with 136 hp. “The best thing about this Cup is the tough competition anyway,” said veteran Timo von der Marel, at 32 the oldest and most experienced in the Cup field. “Everyone has the same material. If you want to win, you have to drive better than the others. It’s as simple as that. And that’s what makes the ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup so cool!”
We have ushered in
a new era in rallying!”
Opel Motorsport Director Jörg Schrott talks about ideas, goals and hurdles surrounding the world’s first electric rally one-make cup.
To what extent was it a pioneering achievement by Opel and ADAC?
There were no empirical values for the realisation of an electric rally one-make cup in advance, and there were no standards on the part of the associations for electric rallying, so everything had to be worked out from scratch. We have broken new ground – a pioneering achievement in the best sense of the word. I would like to mention the charging infrastructure and the safety concept as examples.
What decisions were necessary regarding charging, for example?
Generators for power generation were never an option. Our specifications were clear: the solution had to be powerful, sustainable and it had to be mobile. Above all, it had to ensure that every rally vehicle received the same amount of energy in the same amount of time. Anything else would have counteracted the idea of equal opportunity in a one-make cup. We discussed different solutions in advance and spoke with many providers.
And you found a good partner?
Yes, the guys from eLoaded immediately understood what was at stake and developed a solution together with us that met all our requirements. As became apparent in the course of the season, this solution was the right one. And so was the partner: you only notice how good people are when something doesn’t work. Here, too, eLoaded has proven to be a team player. The guys are real racers.
Does that also apply to the Corsa-e Rally?
We pushed and tortured it over more than 10,000 test kilometres until we were sure that it could stand up to tough rally use. Whereas you can test as much as you want – then you come to the first rally, and all of a sudden you have some issue on the table that had never come up before. That’s always the case in racing. But we benefited from the fact that the series basis of the Corsa-e is so good.
In what way?
We took the engine, battery and inverter unchanged from the production car. In addition, we were able to use racing-proven components, such as the chassis, cage, brakes and so on. What was really exciting was the exchange with our colleagues from series production. They were often able to give us valuable input during development. And we provided them with insights and data that they wouldn’t have easily got otherwise, because they are never in those performance ranges that are commonplace in motorsport.
What is your conclusion after the first season?
The season was just as demanding and challenging as we expected it to be. To say that everything went smoothly would be a lie. It was completely clear to us that one or the other problem could arise during the season that we hadn’t anticipated before. And that was also the case. But thanks to a great team, we overcame all difficulties. And it was really fun when you see that hard work pays off and a project works.
But Opel didn’t create the one-make cup for the fun of it…
Of course, it is primarily about doing something for the brand image. Innovative and competitive spirit, dynamism, passion, precision, but also efficiency and sustainability – these are attributes that perfectly fit the Opel brand. Where better to portray these qualities than in motorsport? And with the ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup, Opel has ushered in a new era in rallying.
Apropos competition: it was thrilling. Frenchman Laurent Pellier showed his class and experience throughout the season and secured the Cup title early. However, the Frenchman from the Saintéloc Junior Team also noticed that the air was getting uncomfortably thin as the season progressed. “I think at the beginning of the season we figured out how you can be fast with the Corsa-e Rally. But with each event, the others got closer. And to win again at the finale, we really had to push ourselves,” the 26-year-old confessed. Indeed: at the season finale in Saxony, Pellier ultimately won by only 4.6 seconds ahead of van der Marel.
The runner-up title went to Max Reiter, one of Germany’s greatest rally hopes at the moment. The 21-year-old and his co-driver Lina Meter showed their enormous potential, not least by winning the ADAC 3-City Rally. At the finale, the Saarlanders finished third in a relaxed and experienced manner, thus clinching the runner-up title and at the same time their sixth podium finish in seven Cup events – impressive!
“With each event, the others got
closer. And to win again at the finale,
we really had to push ourselves.”
The VIP guests
The competitive level of the ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup was also felt by the prominent guest drivers who tried their hand in the VIP guest car of Opel partner TotalEnergies during the season. Circuit aces Timo Scheider (a strong fifth at the season opener in Stemwede) and Lance David Arnold were just as enthusiastic about the fast electric racer as World Rally Championship star Yohan Rossel, who finished fourth at the season highlight, the Czech European Championship round at the Barum Czech Rally Zlín. One statement was identical for all guest drivers: “It was great fun!” By the way, this was exactly the wording used by model Ashley, participant in the TV casting show “Germany’s Next Top Model”, after her exciting taxi drives with Opel racing legend Volker Strycek at the ADAC Rally Stemweder Berg.
The platform for talents
An important cornerstone of the Cup is the promotion of young talent, as Opel and ADAC have already shown in recent years. After all, four Junior European Championship titles in a row between 2015 and 2018 were not won by chance. “With the ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup and the ADAC Opel Rally Junior Team as the second stage, we are continuing this successful concept,” emphasises Opel Motorsport Director Jörg Schrott.
So what is the conclusion after the debut season of the world’s first electric rally one-make cup? “The awareness that electric rallying works and that, not least, we have given German rallying important impetus for the future,” says Opel Motorsport Director Jörg Schrott. “The ADAC Opel e-Rally Cup is a real pioneering achievement by the two strong partners ADAC and Opel. We have learned a lot this season. And we now have to take these insights and put them into practice over the winter.”