R: Which is where Super Car Lites comes in…
AE: Right. I want to build something where people can have rallycross careers, they haven't just come from a different walk of life. I want 17- and 18-year-old guys coming in and choosing this is what they want to do until they're 40 or whatever. To make sure we have a sport that does that, there needs to be a feeder class underneath that creates great drivers.
So I wanted to do this right. I wanted a car that is exciting, a car that is not car-manufacturer labeled although this car obviously has adapted Fiesta panels on it at the moment. It will be a one-make series, although what body is on it, I don't mind; I'd leave that to the promoters. My priority is to make sure that the cars are all equal, and that the guy who's really fast in one of these Lites cars will then be able to leap up to GRC level and, given one day of testing, he's good enough to reach a GRC Final. That's how good I think I can get him or her in this Lites car.
R: So the Lites car will handle just like a lower-powered GRC car.
AE: Yes, but not just handle. I want all the key elements from the GRC car in the Lites car – not just in terms of its behavior but how it reacts to certain changes. As well as teaching a driver how to handle a GRC car, the Lites car will teach drivers how to adjust their equipment. It's important for a driver to know what changes affect his car in what way because when you get into the GRC, damper settings and things like that can make the difference to who's fastest. A driver needs to know how to influence his car to tune it into his driving style, the nature of the track. So we will make everything as adjustable as possible.
It will sound really good, but it won't have a turbo because I want the two classes to sound distinct from one another. It will have over 300hp. The GRC cars are about 1,300kg [2,866lbs] with the driver, and the Lites will be 1,100kg [2,425lbs]. The size of tires will be the same, but I'm trying to make the cars handle the same even if the power to grip ratio is different. The braking power is the same as in the GRC car, but with slightly smaller front discs and the transmission is the same. And so on the gravel part of our test track, this Lites car was only 0.3sec slower than a GRC car. I was pleased with that.
R: And the cost?
AE: My target from the beginning was $100-150,000 and it probably is actually closer to $150,000. But my goal is not to work down to a price. The idea is to have good quality equipment – we design everything, and then the chassis is built by Avitas in Turkey, the wheels are Motegi Racing, the engine is Mountune in the UK, and we then have a very rigorous quality control here at OMSE. I'm also trying to achieve a point where the car will never break. Seriously, I want it to be like a Swiss clock. But the most important question is running costs, because anyone can buy a car but not everyone can run it. So that's the key. We want it so that everything will be in a book – there will be no hidden costs for customers.
I want the engine as good as possible but they must be evenly matched, so I have them built as 25-unit run – Mountune can do 40-engine runs and make every one the same, which is one of the reasons we work with them. And we'll do chassis rebuilds 10 by 10. One of the biggest problems that teams in all sports have is the variability of quality from batch to batch so having them all coming through one place and in bulk loads should eliminate that worry.
Another point I want to make here is that I will also be setting up a facility whereby all the ECUs can be checked, to make sure everything's equal. It's always hard to make guarantees in motorsport but there are some guarantees that have to be there especially in a one-make series, right? The whole purpose of Lites is to create and recognize stars that are worthy of graduation to the GRC cars, so you don't want anyone stealing an advantage by playing with the ECU and getting a different torque curve or more horsepower.
R: I understand there's been a lot of interest…Actually, I know there's a lot of interest. Some of the names that have come up have surprised me.
AE: I have IndyCar teams that want to run cars, NASCAR Nationwide teams, Drifting teams, too. So I can't say it loud but I'm pretty sure we'll have a lot of Super Car Lites running in 2013. We will have a big test in January with cars with some significant improvements on this model and it will take half a year to get enough of them ready. Probably the series debut will be in May or June, and hopefully we will have a series of six races next year, each one supporting a GRC round.
R: And you're working with the promoter on this?
AE: Ha! I have thought about it many times – “Should I be a promoter or should I run a race team?” and I decided I want to run a race team. My company from the beginning was Motor Sport Evolution – that's what I do. And Olsbergs came in and so we are OMSE now. So a race team is what we are. But, of course, I want to help the promoter in any way I can. And so I want the winner of the Super Car Lites series to have really earned it, and I want what he or she has earned to really be something, and I want that to mean promotion to the GRC cars where he or she can take on names that are already stars. We have momentum and we must build on it.