Tesla Model 3 impresses former rally champion after high-speed testing

(Photo: Team O'Neil Rally School/Facebook)

After conducting high-speed tests of the Tesla Model 3 Performance and evaluating its potential as a rally car, professional driver and former champion Wyatt Knox realized that the electric sedan could be a game changer. In a conversation with Teslarati, Knox described the Model 3 Performance as a “fantastic” car, thanks to its dual motors, its Track Mode feature, and its superb handling.

Wyatt Knox, a former rally champion who currently works as the special projects director of the Team O’Neil Rally School in New Hampshire, stated that the Model 3 Performance’s dual motors are a difference-maker, allowing the electric car to “do a lot of things that a normal AWD car cannot.” It should be noted that Knox’s point of comparison in this statement is conventional rally cars, which are already frighteningly powerful in their own right. Rally cars, for one, are famed for their brutal acceleration, allowing them to reach highway speeds in unpaved terrain.  

“Because of the dual motors, (the Model 3 Performance) can infinitely vary the amount of drive to the front and rear however much it is programmed to, based on your steering angle, throttle position, brake position, yaw sensor, wheel speed sensors, (and) probably more that I’m not even aware of. A Subaru or an Audi or something with one engine driving a normal transmission and center diff cannot do that,” Knox stated.

The Tesla Model 3 Performance gets tested in a rally course. (Photo: Team O’Neil Rally School/Facebook)

Coupled with Track Mode, which was engaged during the high-speed tests, Tesla’s dual motor system allowed for superb handling of the Model 3 Performance in the challenging, icy rally course. Referring to the car’s potential for rallying later, Knox remarked that if Tesla eventually allows owners to “tune” their vehicles by allowing them to adjust their cars’ settings, it could open up a lot of doors for the top-trim Model 3 to perform even more impressively.

“The Tesla dual motor (system) could theoretically be 100% front wheel drive, 100% rear wheel drive, or any mix of the two. That’s not how it’s really programmed to work, but that’s the tech it’s based on. That opens a LOT of really interesting doors. If you could plug in and ‘tune’ the system to your application, yeah, that would be would be a game changer,” the rally driver wrote.

Elon Musk actually mentioned a rather similar feature in an interview with YouTube tech reviewer Marques Brownlee last year. During his conversation, Musk described Track Mode’s capabilities, comparing the feature to an “expert user mode” for a computer. Musk noted that with Track Mode enabled, drivers would be able to “overclock” their electric cars’ performance.

“Track Mode will open up a lot of settings. You can adjust settings, and it’s kinda like an ‘Expert User Mode.’ You can sort of adjust traction control, adjust battery temperature. You can basically configure a bunch of things, and it will tell you, like ‘Hey, you know if you do this, it’s a bit risky. You’re gonna wear out your brakes sooner; you might blow a circuit.’ But like, it’ll be clear — like, you know, this is the risk you’re taking. It’s kinda like if you have a graphics card in a computer. You can go in there and change the settings and you can overclock things,” Musk said.

The Tesla Model 3 Performance gets tested in a rally course. (Photo: Team O’Neil Rally School/Facebook)

By the end of his session with the electric sedan, Knox observed that the Model 3 performed very well, especially since the vehicle’s only optimization were its Pirelli Sottozero winter tires. Despite the intensive testing sessions having been conducted in single-digit weather, Knox observed that the Model 3 Performance’s battery consumption during the tests was nominal as well.

The idea of utilizing an electric vehicle for rally events is already part of the World Rally Championship’s roadmap. Earlier this month, the WRC announced that it would be moving forward with an electric or hybrid solution from 2022. With this in mind, the sight of the Model 3 Performance ripping through the woods, in loose gravel and snow, might eventually be commonplace. For the former champion, at least, the idea of using the Model 3 Performance as a rally car is definitely a welcome thought.

The Model 3 and its Track Mode has already been proven on the track. In a recent segment, for example, Chinese auto group Know the Car tested the Model 3 Performance on the racetrack, pitting it against fellow electric cars, high-performance sedans, and supercars. The Model 3 Performance dominated in straight line acceleration in the group’s tests. In actual track tests, the Model 3 Performance proved competitive, beating similar class cars, the BMW M3 and the Mercedes-AMG C63, around the track.

Tesla Model 3 impresses former rally champion after high-speed testing
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