Evasive Motorsports Takes On Pikes Peak With A Tesla Model 3

10 min read

Evasive Motorsports Takes On Pikes Peak With A Tesla Model 3

10 min read

Founded in back in 2002, Evasive Motorsports has grown to become one of the preeminent import performance houses in the road racing scene. Bringing the style and tuning expertise of Japan’s premiere time attack cars to a North American audience, Evasive got their start selling performance components while also developing their own racing program. After they got their hands on a Mitsubishi Evo in 2006, Evasive began campaigning their own car in various time attack events and quickly started to make a name for themselves.

“Every year or two after that, we would build a new race car,” says Evasive Motorsports co-founder Mike Chang. “We were heavily influenced by what we were seeing overseas and started importing parts from companies like Voltex Racing. Those Japanese time attack cars inspired a lot of the builds that we were doing at the time.”

While Chang describes Evasive Motorsports as a side project in the early days, today the outfit is not only a major player in time attack but also a force to be reckoned with at Pikes Peak. Held annually since 1916, simply completing a lap at the hill climb event is an accomplishment in and of itself. The course is a grueling proposition for both man and machine, consisting of 156 turns that take place over 12.4 miles, and features elevation that climbs from 4700 feet at the starting line to over 14,000 feet at the finish. After five years of competing at the event, Evasive’s hard work finally paid off in 2020 when team driver and Formula Drift champion Dai Yoshihara secured an Unlimited class win in the team’s 2JZ-powered widebody Toyota 86.

This year the team decided take on a new challenge and entered a race-prepped Tesla Model 3 Performance in the EV class. As electric vehicles continue to expand their footprint in the industry, Evasive wanted to put themselves at the forefront of this emerging technology in a racing context. “I think this appeals to a different kind of enthusiast that’s maybe a bit younger,” says Evasive Motorsports engineer Mike Kojima, whose previous motorsport engineering efforts include stints at TRD and Nismo. “A lot of younger people might not be into cars necessarily, but they’re into Teslas, and stuff like this can kind of show them what’s possible.”

Starting with a factory-stock Tesla Model 3 Performance, Evasive set to work getting the EV ready for the hill climb. The car was outfitted with a lot of the usual suspects for a prepped road race machine – race seats, a six-point roll cage, big aero, three-way adjustable KW coilovers, motorsport-spec Brembo brakes, 305mm Toyo racing slicks, and a Motec data logging system, for instance. Evasive Motorsports also developed their own sway bars and spherical bearings for the car as well, and outfitted it with a widebody kit made by Artisan Spirits to provide adequate clearance for the race rubber.

But Kojima notes that the unique characteristics of the EV powertrain also dictated a lot of the team’s development focus during the two months of prep time they had before the race. “It has a lot of cooling mods for the battery, the motors, and the inverter. Once the temperatures go past a certain threshold, the output starts to drop. CSF Radiators, one of our technical partners, helped us out with a lot of the heat exchangers we’re using on the car. But it’s kind of tricky because the system de-rates based on calculated load as well, so controlling the temperature isn’t the whole puzzle.”

Although the car is still stock from a horsepower perspective, the complexity of the EV powertrain – and the software that controls it – proved to be a challenge at the hill climb, where teams are only given one shot at setting an official race time. “We still don’t really know what happened, to be honest,” Kojima tells us. “Dai took off on his run, and the car immediately went into some kind of limp mode – the car wouldn’t go any faster than 30 miles per hour. I don’t know if it was, like, cosmic rays or something, but it had never done that before. And it hasn’t done that since.”

Evasive Motorsports Tesla Pikes Peak

Chang has a theory, though. “We modified the factory electrical system, and removed a lot of components from the car – that it might have thrown off the CAN bus system for split second somehow. Or it could be that because the car sat overnight at Pikes Peak and it got too cold, the temperature variance caused the software to freak out. As soon as Dai got to the top and had a chance to turn the car off and on again, the problem was gone. But since it had never happened before, we didn’t really have a procedure in place to deal with it.”

Kojima notes that the issue has the team considering a move to a standalone ECU for EVs, like the AEM VCU300. In the meantime, though, they’ve already taken the Model 3 out to Buttonwillow Raceway in Kern County, California, where it set an unofficial production EV lap record. “We ran it just to show the world that we’re not chumps!” he jokes. “We just wanted to really push the car and see what it would do. And we ran a 1:50 flat, which is like seven or eight seconds faster than the previous record we set. I think there’s at least another second in the car, too – it was over 100 degrees out there, and that’s not ideal for setting lap times.”

The team is putting together a plan for next year’s Pike Peak attempt as well, and with the main build already completed, Evasive can now focus their attention on refinement. “This will give us time to improve the cooling system a bit more, maybe install some LSD units in the drivetrain, and just get the car more dialed in,” Chang tells us. “I think we’re also going to focus on the control unit side and hopefully find ways to be less reliant on the factory ECU. It’s something we’re still figuring out, though. This is kind of uncharted territory.”

Evasive Motorsports Tesla Pikes Peak 2


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