Watch Tesla Model 3 Put Through The Paces At Laguna Seca

Tesla Model 3 racing at Leguna Seca


Have a look at the Tesla Model 3’s first filmed laps around a familiar raceway.

Model 3 owner Matt Crowley recently shared his experience on the Tesla Motors Club forum. He took his stock Model 3 (with Unplugged Performance aftermarket springs) to the infamous Laguna Seca to put it through the paces. Needless to say, Crowley was more than pleasantly surprised by the sedan’s success.

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Tesla Model 3 racing at Laguna Seca

Tesla Model 3 at Laguna Seca

Crowley figured the Tesla would only make it a few laps before slowing down, however, this was not the case. His entire session consisted of nine full laps, and the Model 3 hung in there at full power through to the end. During that time, the car used up 135 miles of range and completely wore out its brakes. He shared:

“The first session of the day had NO battery power limitations! Nine laps without slowing down! Yes!”

Generally, the expectation is that the car’s software wouldn’t allow for such a feat. Perhaps Tesla hasn’t updated the software yet to limit performance after a certain period of time, the lighter, more agile car is just better-equipped for such situations, and/or not programmed the same as Tesla’s flagships.

We’re all well aware that that Model 3 can’t live up to true sports cars on this course or any other, but it managed to fare pretty well. Crowley’s best lap was 1:57.50. Teslarati points out a Porsche 911 Carrera’s 1:54.22 and a Honda NSX’ 1:57.00 for comparison.

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Video Description via Michael Crowley on YouTube:

Took my Tesla Model 3 on Laguna Seca Raceway for a track day event on Sunday March 4, 2018. This was a last minute decision, since my Porsche Cayman GT4 track car had a check engine light come on, the day before the event. So, why not try the Tesla Model 3 at Laguna…?

Model 3 setup:
– 2017 Tesla Model 3 (rear wheel drive, long range 310 mile, premium upgrades)
– 19″ TSportline cast wheels w/ Pirelli PZero Nero GT tires (PSI: 33 front / 35 rear)
– Lowered 1.5″ w/ ‘moderate’ springs from Unplugged Performance
– Weather forecast: Mostly sunny skies. High around 55F (12.8°C). Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.
– Charging: Monterey Supercharger in between sessions (not sure how many times yet)

Source: Teslarati

Category: TeslaVideos


22 responses to "Watch Tesla Model 3 Put Through The Paces At Laguna Seca"
  1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    I am very surprised that the Model 3 didn’t go into reduced power mode after just a few laps. Has Tesla really made that big an improvement to the battery pack’s cooling system? Or is there some factor not mentioned in this report?

    I’ll be very interested to read about more track testing of the TM3, from other sources.

    1. Trolly says:

      The no pull in power in likely due to low temp outdoor conditions. Let’s see it do it at 100F like a real sports car and for more than 9 laps. This is a cool car, but not a sports car at all. Brake fade at lap 8 is terrifying.

      1. Mint says:

        LOL you’re making a huge deal out of worn brake pads? That’s not the same as brake fade, and is easily solved with better pads.

        People have driven the Model S at 40F without significant change in overheating time. Motor heat is the main limitation, and it’d take less than 1kWh of heat to raise a 200lb (?) motor’s temperature by 60F. He used up >30kWh.

        You know there is some ground between “a real sports car” and “not a sports car at all”. 9 laps without throttling is a huge improvement.

      2. Me says:

        Model S has induction motor, that’s very hard to control the temperature inside.
        Model 3 has Permanent Magnet motors, must easier to cool down.

      3. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        “Brake fade at lap 8 is terrifying.”

        Wut? The article says “completely wore out its brakes”. I take that to mean wore out the brake pads, which is a very different thing than brake fade.

        The Model 3 isn’t sold as a track car or even a sports car, so the fact that the brakes wore out when pushed hard on an actual racetrack, shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

        1. ModernMarvelFan says:

          wore out brakes in racing can mean it is completely faded due to heat as in no brake performance left…

          Pads can be “burned up” or glazed to the point that it doesn’t have much braking power left even though there are still “materials” left.

    2. Mint says:

      I think the biggest change is due to the motor. A permanent magnet motor (and switched reluctance motor) has far lower heat generation in the rotor, which is the hardest part to cool.

      On top of that, the motor has a far lower power rating, and probably pushing the limits less (which further reduces heat generation).

      Combine everything, and rotor heat could easily be a tenth or less of what the S has.

      1. pjwood1 says:

        -Permanent Magnet suggests M3 could be a good “drivers ed” car? Along with:
        -3,800lbs Tesla, instead of 4,700 (inertia raises heat)
        -DOT 4, or higher brake fluid
        -Low regen, cold battery (not ‘Max’, if PXXD)
        -Better, higher temperature pads, as suggested

        “true sports cars”? Maybe we shouldn’t dismiss BEVs. Plenty of Corvettes and Aston Martins over-heat in these conditions. His Model 3 is closer to the GT4 Cayman, in weight balance. It has as low/lower a roll-center.

        A compelling 20-minute option is all that’s needed, IMO. Anyone thinking this is a short time on a race track, needs to bring their A-game focus to a driver’s ed event. More amateur accidents happen late in the sessions, after 10-15 minutes (cold tires notwithstanding).

  2. Tom says:

    The Model 3 is more efficient that the S by quite a bit (lighter, lower drag, permanent magnet motors). It’s possible the reduced power draw of the Model 3 alone was enough to prevent overheating leading to limp mode.

    As well, it was a cold day. He also turned off regen braking for the course (saving more heat) – other videos with limp mode have left it on.

    1. Arpe says:

      The driver will be back on Laguna Saga soon with sport brakes for further testing.

      He promised full regen while racing would be conducted in the test, to gather information about heat limitations of the Model 3.

      1. Trolly says:

        Race tracks need wireless charging asap. It would be fun to watch EVs go 24 hrs straight essentially ?

        1. pjwood1 says:

          The ‘Environmental Justice’ community would scream, but Porsche should put one 350KW unit at each:
          -Watkins Glen
          -Laguna Seca
          couple others

          You just know this is going to happen, like Sinatra singing “I did it my way”.

      2. J. L. Brown says:

        I will be very interested in how a Model 3 does on this course with very aggressive regenerative braking active. It would certainly help his brake-pad situation, and reduce range consumption. I have to wonder about heating, though.

        Also, I am curious about this drivers experience with the Model 3, regenerative braking (which takes some getting used to), and EVs in general — how much improvement might we see as he gets more practice with this particular car?

    2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “He also turned off regen braking for the course (saving more heat)…”

      Interesting strategy to avoid overheating. So, the brakes would not have worn out so soon if the regen had not been turned off. It’s a tradeoff.

      This is only whetting my appetite to see how the Roadster Mk II performs on the track!

      1. pjwood1 says:

        Tesla’s a black box. Intuitively, 200KWh should take longer to heat, but who knows what the inertia will be or the extent they cool the motor?

        Tesla customers don’t seem to care, and they’re practically being trained not to.

  3. Jeff N says:

    “Crowley’s best lap was 1:57.50. Teslarati points out a Porsche 911 Carrera’s 1:54.22 and a Honda NSX’ 1:57.00 for comparison.”

    Or a Chevy Bolt EV’s 1:56.619 at last year’s REFUEL electric car race at Laguna Seca. It will be fun to see how the Model 3 entries do at this year’s event.

    1. Warren says:

      “During that time, the car used up 135 miles of range and completely wore out its brakes.”

      There is the problem. he had the brakes on the entire time! 🙂

  4. dathomir says:

    FYI – the comparison time that Teslarati indicated are for a 2001 Porsche 911 Carrera (driven by Steve Millen) and 2004 Honda NSX (driven by Jeremy Clarkson). Found here:

    For a better comparison:
    -2016 Alfa Romeo Giulia QV = 1:39:68
    -2014 M4 = 1:39:69 (Randy Pobst)
    -2007 (E92) M3 = 1:42:96

  5. Nix says:

    Can’t wait to see AWD version with full 4-wheel regen action!

  6. James says:

    An outstanding result!

    No doubt that future racing of EVs will improve the breed. I am stoked that this car is basically a street Model 3 with stiffer springs.

    Take a stock Honda Acura TLX or Lexus ES350 around a track and it will be hands on knees after nine laps at Laguna also. Point being these are daily driver sedans from premium brands.

    Model 3 has sporting aspects like low center of gravity and rear wheel drive. This makes for a very nice road car experience.

    I don’t buy a car to beat at the track, let alone a 4 door sedan. You might. That makes you a tiny minority.

    I’m pleased Tesla puts 95% of it’s resources and energy into building everyday drivers and not race cars. Roadster 2 will happen, but these everyday cars will change the world.

    1. DL says:

      I drove my BMW 335d (diesel) around Laguna for 3 consecutive days, 5 sessions per day, at racing speeds (around 2m lap time), in late summer. I didn’t burn up the brakes or overheat the engine, and I didn’t have to refuel during the day either.

      I’m encouraged that the M3 did not go into limp mode, but very discourage at its braking performance.

  7. Terawatt says:

    It’s great that it didn’t power fade. Almost nobody will actually benefit, but it’ll help the street cred and that stuff matters more than it really should.

    However… brakes wearing out fast when racing may not be surprising, but after nine miles and four laps..? Seems to me Tesla has really skimped on the brakes.

    We all know EVs use their brake pads only half as fast as ICE, or less still. But that’s a reason to use BETTER pads, not worse, as they don’t need replacement as often. In fact, if equipped with top quality pads, the Model 3 might never need to change them, and that would give the lowest total cost! But more importantly, all those Model 3 drivers who will at some point need maximum stopping power to avoid an accident or make it happen at the lowest speed possible would have more breaking power available.

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