Lotus presented its Exige R-GT rally racer at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. Designed to compete in the newly-formed FIA GT class of the FIA Rally Championship, the Exige R-GT marks Lotus’ return to professional rally competition in over 20 years, and will race in tarmac stages of the series, including Monte Carlo, Tour de Corse, and San Remo.
The R-GT takes a standard roadgoing Lotus Exige -- now packing a Toyota-sourced 3.5-liter V-6, typically found in the Evora -- and gives it the full rally treatment. To protect the driver and navigator from the many dangers of rallying, an FIA-spec steel rollcage is bolted to the car’s aluminum frame. The car’s 3.5-liter V-6 pumps out 302 hp, and features FIA-mandated 34-mm air restrictors to keep the R-GT in class. Weight is also highly regulated, and is kept at a healthy 2646 pounds. A six-speed sequential transmission with two available homologated final drives is used, as is a limited-slip differential and racing-spec half shafts. Brakes are upgraded, increasing in both size and cooling efficiency. Wheels and tires measure 17x7 inches with 205/62-size tires in the front, and 18x8 inches with 225/65-size tires in the rear. A roof-mounted air scoop and rally-style fog lights complete the R-GT’s look.
As a former member of the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus factory rally team, Director of Motorsport for Group Lotus, Claudio Berro, believes the brand’s return to rally carries an extra special meaning. “With the new R-GT rules in rally, it’s a very interesting time for us to return to the sport,” said Berro. “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.”
Lotus says the racing version of the Exige was developed alongside the road-going variant, and that the R-GT remains easy to drive while still being a focused racing machine. Initially, Lotus will partner with customer teams that will race the R-GT in the various tarmac stages of the FIA Rally Championship. Lotus says this method has worked for the company in the past, when the brand entered IndyCar and Le Mans competition.
“In my mind, rally is probably the ultimate motorsport,” said Berro. “We really believe it’s one of the best and most straightforward ways to demonstrate the capabilities of our products.”