Lotus unveiled its FIA rally car, the Exige R-GT, at Frankfurt in the same blue and white color scheme that decorated the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus from 1981.
GT Rallying already exists in France, Belgium, Germany and Italy, but all run under different rules. The FIA's, Jean Todt asked Lotus Director of Motorsport, Claudio Berro to work with his colleagues at Aston Martin and Porsche to devise a set of global rules that would attract the likes of Alfa Romeo with its 4C and Nissan (GT-R) and Renault with the rumored imminent return of Alpine to run in GT class on rounds of the World Rally Championship.
Lotus' entry is based on the Exige, but powered by a 300 bhp version of the supercharged Toyota V-6 driving the rear wheels through modified version of the same six-speed sequential gearbox as used in the Evora GT with a pneumatic shift, unique ratios and limited slip differential.
The car's standard 2380 lbs has been brought up to the homologated weight of 2645 lbs with an FIA roll cage and fuel tank as well as ballast that can be positioned in the car for optimum grip and balance.
To minimize costs – the car costs $156,000 local taxes – the Exige uses road going wishbones and uprights with springs and competition dampers and springs. Although the ABS is deactivated the Exige uses specific front and rear discs and bells with uprated calipers; driveshafts are also strengthened.
Wheels and Pirelli tires are: 7'' x 17'' front rims, 205-62/17 front tires; 8'' x 18'' rear rims 225-65/18 rear tires.
Components are currently undergoing tests in a mule Evora before being transferred to the Exige R-GT displayed at Frankfurt, "We will test the car on tarmac with specialist French and Italian drivers and on gravel with British or Finnish drivers," explained Berro.
Lotus, Berro said, had already received interest from an Italian outfit wanting to run a works team but "I would rather have teams from the UK, France, Spain, Italy, the U.S. all competing together.
"I expect the car's performance to be about 1.5 secs slower per kilometer than a Super2000 car but on some stages, like asphalt, we could, for sure, be quicker."
The 300 cars needed for homologation will initially be assembled on the Exige line before being finished in the motorsport workshops.
Berro also revealed that Lotus' plans to enter LMP2 had been put on the back-burner until the new V-8 road engine is available in January 2012. "The V-6 isn't powerful enough, we need to find 2.5 seconds to be with the Ferraris and Porsches in GT4 so we are working in parallel with our colleagues from the road engine team to develop the V8 for competition. "At the 2012 Paris Salon I want to show our LMP2 car and then test it over the winter to compete at Le Mans in 2013."