The hard working Lotus Motorsport team were busy celebrating the fruits of their labour over the past months following the first proper Exige R-GT rally car shakedown in December 2011 in Turin/Italy.
The Rally version of the new Exige S took centre stage with a quick track shakedown for the first time in full Rally specification. The car handled exactly as expected and the team were delighted with the results. Testing will continue ahead of the start of the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship season where the Exige will contend the FIA GT category on asphalt at events in Monte Carlo, Tour de Corse and San Remo.
Claudio Berro, Group Lotus’ Director of Motorsport, said: “When you consider that we’ve only began working on this car in July, I think what we’ve achieved in that time has been incredible. For me the Exige S makes the perfect GT rally car, it has an awesome 3.5-litre, supercharged engine, and we’ve managed to balance the weight perfectly to meet the minimum weight regulations. The shakedown today has only made us even more excited to show off the car in true race form early next year – I think we’re doing the Lotus motorsport pedigree proud.”
30 years after World Rally Championship victory in the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus it’s time to welcome Lotus back to rally with the brother of the newly launched Exige S – the Exige R-GT.
What better way to demonstrate Lotus’ superior ride and handling than by re-entering the adrenaline filled Rally Championships? Showcasing the new Exige S’ phenomenal performance, the Exige R-GT will participate in the newly formed FIA GT category of the FIA Rally Championship on asphalt in Monte Carlo, Tour de Corse and San Remo.
For Group Lotus’ Director of Motorsport Claudio Berro the return to rally has an extra special meaning; “My motorsport career started in rally, in fact, I even took part in the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus’ Italian Rally championship winning a race in San Marino back in 1981 so this is a very nostalgic moment for me. As we unveiled the car in Frankfurt, alongside the original championship winning car, I had the chance to get back inside and the smell was exactly the same – it brought back many happy memories for me.
"With the new R-GT rules in rally, it’s a very interesting time for us to return to the sport. Naturally our approach this time around will be different to when we won the championship with Talbot three decades ago but I think our philosophy is definitely the same, we want to compete and ultimately we want to win. Our new rally car, the Exige R-GT is a dream come true for those who are passionate about GT racing – this will be their car."
The beauty of the Exige R-GT is that although it’s a professionally set up race car, you don’t need to be a pro to drive it – the race car has been developed alongside the road car allowing the technical team to create the perfect race machine, high performance but without losing the sense of fun to drive and ease of use. Developing the race version of the Exige in parallel with the road car has allowed the Lotus technicians to make rapid advances in terms of safety and reliability.
Claudio Berro commented: “We have learnt a great deal from working with the Evora and creating various race derivatives over the past 18 months particularly how best to adapt a road car for the track and competitive racing. We were able to put this learning to good use with the Exige project. In my mind rally is probably the ultimate motorsport, it combines the excitement of track racing with the specialist skills needed for road racing – we really believe it’s one of the best and most straight forward ways to demonstrate the capabilities of our products.”
Powered by the same V6 3.5 litre engine as the new road Exige, significant changes have been made to the gearbox and the restrictors on the engine in order to control the power. Lotus will initially partner with several customer teams following the tried and tested method in which Lotus entered IndyCar and returned to Le Mans.
The new R-GT rally category is the perfect opportunity for us to show the performance of the very exciting and truly unique 2012 Lotus Exige.
Steel rollcage specifically designed and ASN and FIA homologated, bolted and bonded on the original aluminum chassis
Weight: 1200 kg as by FIA R-GT technical regulation
Front and rear specific underbody protections
WRC style crew side protections and lexan side windows
Roof cockpit air scoop
Front and rear double A-arms
3 ways adjustable front and rear specific dampers
V6 supercharged 3.5l
Power 302 bhp (limited)
34 mm air restrictors as required by FIA tech rules for R-GT
6 ratio sequential gearbox, two homologated final drives
Specific front and rear disc and bells
Upgraded front and rear calipers
Hydraulic “fly-off” handbrake
Improved air cooling
Wheels and tyres
7’’ x 17’’ front rims 8’’x18’’ alternative front rims
205-62/17 front tyre
8’’ x 18’’ rear rims
225-65/18 rear tyre
The Facts of the Legendary Talbot Sunbeam Lotus.
• Officially known as the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus, most people refer to it as the Lotus Sunbeam
• 2011 marks 30 years since the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus won the World Rally Championship
• Given the Lotus Type Number 81
• The Lotus Sunbeam rally car used the Lotus 908 engine –developed from the same engine family as the iconic Lotus Esprit supercar engine
• Debuted in 1978 at the hands of Andrew Cowan
• On its World Championship debut, Pond took the car to fourth place in Sanremo in 1979
• Sunbeams came first, third and fourth in the GB round (Lombard RAC Rally) of the 1980 World Rally Championships – prompting Des O'Dell, Talbot Rally boss to be awarded his personal Lotus Sunbeam, the numberplate RAC134W, by Talbot
• During the 1981 season, Lotus Sunbeams won Group 2 in every WRC rally entered, finishing second overall on four occasions. Other leading cars were Group 4, which allowed much further modification from the road cars.
• Lotus Sunbeams have been driven or co-driven by, amongst others: Andrew Cowan, Tony Pond, Russell Brookes, Henri Toivonen, Jean-Pierre Nicolas, Guy Fréquelin, Jean Todt , Stig Blomqvist and Lotus’ own Director of Motorsport, Claudio Berro
• Guy Fréquelin narrowly lost out to Ari Vatanen by 7 points for the race to the Championship for Drivers in 1981 - the same year as the Lotus Sunbeam won the Championship for Manufacturers
• Just 2298 Lotus Sunbeams were built by Lotus between 1979 and 1981 (10 more were built by Talbot as works rally cars
• Originally the cars were only available in Embassy Black with broad silver side stripes and grey interior