Lotus delivered an early Christmas present: Photos of the shakedown test of its new FIA rally-spec Exige. The test occurred this morning in Turin, Italy, where the Exige R-GT turned its first lap tracks in full rally trim.
The company announced the rally program earlier this year and plans to hit the the asphalt events on the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship calendar. The development of the car started in July, according to Lotus director of motorsport Claudio Berro. He said the testing met his expectations.
“The Exige S makes the perfect GT rally car,” Berro said in a statement. “It has an awesome 3.5-liter supercharged engine, and we’ve managed to balance the weight perfectly to meet the minimum weight regulations.”
The Exige R-GT is based on the new Exige S, with a six speed sequential gear box delivering power from the 3.5 liter supercharged Toyota V-6 to the rear wheels. The car features the FIA required 34mm air restrictors to limit power. With the addition of a roll cage and some well placed ballast, the car tips the scales just over the 1,200 kilogram (2,640 pounds) minimum weight required for GT class rally cars with engines larger than 3.1 liters.
The company says testing will continue through the start of the 2012 season. The Exige R-GT will start its racing career in late January with an appearance at Rallye Monte Carlo. It also will compete at the Tour de Corse in France and the Rallye Sanremo in Italy. All of the rallies are asphalt races.
The new GT class is combining the GT rally classes from several European countries under one set of rules. The goal is to create a less expensive class of rallying that would attract entries from several manufactures including Porsche, Aston Martin, Nissan and Renault to name a few.
The Lotus entry comes more than 30 years after it was part of the team that won the overall rally manufacturer title with the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus in 1981.