SRI EV1 brings all-electric racing to the Mexican 1000 rally (video)

We've seen electric off-roaders tackle the Dakar Rally, but racing on the Baja peninsula has proven elusive -- until this weekend. After driving in smaller races, SRI's EV1 has joined the big leagues by starting in NORRA's Mexican 1000 rally. The 535HP, 400kW open-wheeler has participated in at least the first trio of special stages, and it will ideally join a handful of further stages that fit within the vehicle's 100-mile range. While the EV1 is far from the front of the Evolution class, at 36th place as of this writing, winning isn't the point -- SRI wants to drum up enough funding to hot-swap batteries and complete every stage in future races. Its project should at least be proof that smaller EVs can thrive in some of the world's harshest racing conditions.

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Since 1967, the National Off Road Racing Association's (NORRA) Mexican 1000 has been a significant environment for creativity and innovation in off-road motorsports. Thanks to the technical and industry credibility of hot rod pioneer and NORRA executive Don Francisco, the unique Baja competition quickly rose to prominence via the participation of stars like of Parnelli Jones, James Garner and Steve McQueen. Why? From its inception desert racing's wide-open environment gave the automotive industry a new forum for brilliant innovators like Vic Hickey to create the original "Baja Boot" and the legendary Olds 442 "Banshee".

That unique hot rodding legacy will return in a wholly unique way as NORRA today announced the entry of the first ever all-electric off-road race car, the SRI EV1 into this week's four-day General Tire Mexican 1000 rally. The fourth annual vintage-flavored on and off-road rally is scheduled to begin on Saturday, April 27 with a pre-event technical inspection, vehicle display and driver's meeting all taking place at the historic bullring in Mexicali, Baja, Mexico. A record field of 150-plus entries (up from 95 last year) will be made up of motorcycle, truck, buggy and sedan classes from an international list of entries, with a unique emphasis on vintage machinery and a distinctive spotlight on hospitality, adventure and fun.

The EV1 is a full scale, 100% electric-powered race car built to resemble a modern Class 1 unlimited open-wheel machine. Designed by SRI, SRD and EV West, the car produces 535 HP and 750 ft-lbs of torque. Power is delivered through two 9" Netgain WarP motors controlled via Evnetics Soliton 1 high performance controllers before being delivered to the dirt via a Mendeola S4D sequential gearbox.

Team SRI's goal for the 1,200-plus mile Mexican 1000 is to successfully complete all three of the Special Stages on Day 1 from the start in Mexicali to the first overnight stop at Bahia De Los Angeles before running on portions of the remaining Special Stages throughout the event that fall within the EV1's range. This includes the final "Secret Stage" on Day 4 that precedes the official finish line at land's end in San Jose Del Cabo.

Structured in a rally format instead of the more tradition, non-stop Baja endurance competition, the NORRA Mexican 1000 offers Team SRI a unique opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of the EV1 thanks its multi-day schedule and a series of off-road Special Stages linked via on-road transit sections.

Not surprisingly, the new EV1 is a one-of-a-kind hybrid that combines proven off-road racing technology with a cutting edge drivetrain. The Brenthel Industries chassis features a ride controlled by Bilstein Black Hawk 9300 series shocks on BFG Baja TA KR 35x12.50x15 tires balanced and protected with Ride-On TPS on Method Racing Wheels. Driver and co-driver ride in MasterCraft seats and harnesses. Power for the motors is stored in 138, 3.3v 180ah China Aviation Lithium Batteries (CALB) in two "hot swap" battery packs each containing 69 cells. Additional power for the car's Racepak, Baja Designs lighting, communications and GPS is provided by a 4-cell battery pack located in the driver's compartment. Total energy stored in the battery packs is 82kWh, enough to power an average home for about a week.

"This is a monumental undertaking that has been 18 solid months in the making," explained Strategic Recovery Institute founder Jeffrey Smith. "Our entire team is excited about what we are stepping forward to do. We are confident that our upcoming Mexican 1000 capabilities demonstration will generate future battery sponsorship to allow the ability to 'hot swap' multiple battery packs andcomplete entire races in the near future."

The unique legacy of the General Tire NORRA Mexican 1000 to motivate and inspire is still alive and well. Like the unique mid-engine four-wheel drive Baja Boot that Vic Hickey built in the 30 days prior to the inaugural NORRA Mexican 1000 in 1967, the SRI EV1 will become living proof that innovation with an eye toward the future is a powerful concept that may never become obsolete.