Think of rally cars, and what comes to mind? The Citroen DS3 of current WRC title holder Sebastian Loeb? The
Ford Fiesta RS WRC
of Ken Block? Perhaps the Audi Sport quattro of rally legend Michele Mouton?
All of those cars use a front-engine, all-wheel-drive layout, which is what we’ve come to associate with rallying. After all, it yields the best traction and (arguably) the most forgiving handling across a wide variety of surfaces.
It’s easy to forget that many successful rally cars of the past used a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. Cars like the Lancia Stratos
and the Renault R5 Turbo (not to be confused with the front-drive Renault R5) were dominant in their day, even if they demanded a driver’s full attention at all times.
Lotus thinks it can be successful in the FIA European Rally Championship with its mid-engine, rear drive Exige R-GT
, which is set to make its race debut next month. Partnering with last year’s championship-winning United Business Rally Team, Lotus Racing will field a car painted in the classic black and gold Lotus color scheme.
While the car is still undergoing final testing prior to its submission for FIA homologation, Lotus expects the car to be ready by the start of the Rally 1000 Miglia in Brescia, Italy on April 19. Super 2000 World Rally Championship driver Bernardo Sousa, a former Portuguese champion, will be driving the car for the United Business Rally Team.Lotus
plans on building ten Exige R-GT cars this year, with seven cars already allocated to the official team and to European racing drivers.