ABT CUPRA hat 2023 seine erste Saison in der Formel E absolviert. Foto: SEAT CUPRA

eMove360° interview e-motorsport: “Time for the next step”

Electric motorsport continues to gain in importance. Dr. Werner Tietz, Board Member for Research and Development at SEAT S.A., and CUPRA Head of Motorsport Xavi Serra explain in an interview for the current eMove360° magazine in german language how important e-motorsport is for vehicle development and what goals the Challenger brand is pursuing in the racing series.

Dr. Tietz, motorsport is expensive fun where the cost and return are out of proportion – what do you think of this theory?

Dr. Werner Tietz: I would vehemently disagree. Racing cars have always been rolling laboratories for research and development, after all, all the components of a vehicle are tested to the absolute limit, countless data are collected and analyzed in minute detail. I could cite countless examples where an extensive transfer of knowledge from racing to series production has taken place.

Xavi Serra: And I am convinced that the importance of electric racing has increased even more since we entered the field. We are learning every day and at the end of the day, the electric technology in road vehicles is the same as in racing cars. There is a battery, an electric motor and an inverter. The challenges that exist in both areas are the same. In motorsport, for example, we learn a lot about thermal management. The experience we gain with the electric racing car can also be transferred to production vehicles. They can therefore be very useful for development.

The CUPRA brand has always stood for racing – how do you look back on the past few years in e-racing?

Tietz: It started with the CUPRA e-Racer, the first all-electric touring race car, which we presented back in 2018. It was the first of its kind, so in the beginning it was primarily used for test drives and show races. Later, the ETCR racing series was developed.

Serra: That was an extremely exciting time and when 2021 started, we were finally able to reap the fruits of our work: In 2021 and 2022 we dominated the racing series and won the ETCR title in both the driver and team classifications won.

Tietz: That was really fantastic teamwork. And I would like to emphasize: Numerous findings from the ETCR years have already been incorporated into the CUPRA Born and will also flow into the development of future electric models – for example in the CUPRA Tavascan, which we presented in Berlin in April and which will be the next new one model will come onto the market. Of course, we also benefited from the Extreme E with our first electric SUV.

Serra: The Extreme E is really something special: an off-road electric racing series in remote locations affected by climate change that are left in better condition than they were found. In addition, each team consists of one male and one female driver – this is all very contemporary and fits perfectly with the CUPRA brand. After a first year of training, we celebrated great successes last season and we are doing well this season too.

Tietz: At Extreme E, I would also like to emphasize that CUPRA was the first automobile manufacturer to announce its participation in the racing series in September 2020. We were convinced of the concept from the start and still are.

In 2023, he finally joined Formula E – how did this decision come about?

Tietz: In our opinion, it was the right time to take the next step forward and join the world’s largest competition in electric motorsport. As with the ETCR and the Extreme E, we are at the start here with our close partner ABT Sportsline. By joining Formula E, we are underlining our ambition to become a globally relevant brand. I like to quote our CEO Wayne Griffiths here: We want to inspire the world from Barcelona.

However, the start was a bit sobering…

Serra: Due to our late start, we were a few weeks behind in development compared to the other teams. In addition, most of them already have many years of experience in Formula E. Sure, ABT Sportsline has also been active in the racing series in the past, but the development in recent years has been enormous. We learned an incredible amount in the first few weeks and months, but were able to further reduce the gap to the top teams over the course of the year. We showed that we can keep up with Nico Müller’s sixth place in Rome in mid-July and his eighth place in the last race of the season in London.

First ETCR, then Extreme E, now Formula E – is the “E” the future of motorsport?

Serra: The future in motorsport is definitely electric – and with CUPRA we have been there in a variety of ways right from the start. However, there will be a transition phase, as is the case with the electrification of series vehicles on our roads. How long this will last is difficult to say. But one thing is clear: electrification in motorsport has to happen. CUPRA is committed to consistently driving this forward with its own model range, and we are making a major contribution here on many levels. It’s only a matter of time.

Tietz: I can only agree with Xavi. Especially since we have already shown where the journey is headed with the CUPRA UrbanRebel concept vehicle, the forerunner of the future CUPRA Raval: The vehicle is a bold statement from the brand that electrification is not boring. The model delivers an impressive continuous output of 250 kW and a peak output of 320 kW.

Serra: The UrbanRebel is basically more of a rally or rallycross car – and has a high fun factor. For example, it also performs very well on asphalt, snow or gravel. In general, it is a big part of CUPRA’s own brand future. We think there’s a lot in him.

Tietz: Absolutely, I’ve been able to drive the concept car a few times and all I can say is that it’s just a lot of fun. Thanks to its unique suspension and steering tuning, it offers highly precise handling, which will also serve as inspiration for the future road version. And here we are back on the topic: motorsport and the transfer to series production are an important aspect of our vehicle development.

Thank you for the interview.

23.01.2024   |  

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