Chapman would surely approve of the Emira GT4 – even if at 1300kg he’d argue it’s way too heavy. Then again, he’d say the same of just about any modern car, for road or race. The Emira keeps to a familiar theme established by the Evora and is powered by Toyota’s 400bhp 3.5-litre V6 2GR-FE dry sump engine with Harrop supercharger. There’s an Xtrac six-speed sequential paddle-shift gearbox, double wishbone suspension front and rear, adjustable Ohlins dampers, front and rear anti-roll bars and Bosch ABS brakes, on an aluminium chassis with composite panels. All available for the discerning GT racer for £165,000, excluding taxes and delivery.
The car is a collaboration with respected, tried and trusted competitions powerhouse RML, which is likely to handle production. “The long-term gain will be to bring it in-house, but we are going through a transformation in terms of stepping up production for Emira, going from 1700 to 6000 road cars a year,” says Selwin. “The first wave will be 30 race cars for next year. That’s a lot in the current state of the world. We’re aiming to start delivering cars in Q4 this year and we should be starting to build mid to the end of June. There are difficulties in the supply chain, so we shall have to see how it goes.”
Choosing GT4 as a racing canvas made sense. “The rationale is it’s something we have been in before, something we have knowledge of and it’s viewed as a bottom-rung starting point,” says Selwin. “It also seems to be what people want from Lotus, there’s a history with people like Gavan Kershaw racing the cars before.” Kershaw is now a director at Lotus and was on hand last week to give the car its first public runs at Hethel’s 2.2-mile test track. “It was a natural fit for the new Emira which is not quite big enough for GT3, without spending a severe amount of money on development,” Selwin continues. “It’s a toe in the water.”
But for what exactly? That’s the big question and one that Selwin, with his vast experience across different motor sport codes, is relishing the challenge of helping Lotus to answer.
“We always get to Formula 1 fairly quickly in conversations,” he openly admits. “But I think we are a long way off that. We have a desire to go GT racing. Obviously Lotus is going all-electric in the very near future, so there could be an element of that. But let’s prove we can run in GT4. We’ve got confidence from the management, then we can look at what else we can do. Anything is possible.”
Everyone in Hethel will be painfully aware that over-promising and under-delivering is a recent Lotus sin (yes, we’re talking about you, Dany Bahar). “I said that from day one,” acknowledges Selwin. “I’d love to do F1. Yes, I’d love to do LMDh or LMH, love to go to Le Mans. But the reality is I know how hard those arenas are. For me, F1 is some way off being realistic. They’ve stuck a plaster over it with the current regs and price cap, but we all know there are games behind it. Personally I don’t see the sense – although I’ll probably get shot for saying that! I see us better suited to Le Mans-type racing, but it has to be with the right product. Having done WEC and managed a class win at Le Mans I know how hard it is, how many times you can go there and come away with nothing.”
For now, he has enough on his plate finalising the Emira GT4, getting the cars built, working out how best to support customers and seeing them head out on to race tracks in 2023. “So far the response has been pretty amazing,” he reports. “I wouldn’t say we’ve sold the whole 30, but we’re not far away. We’ve got interest from Europe, the UK, Australia, America and China – it’s pretty global.”
GT4 is, of course, a super-competitive arena already populated by major players. As you’ll have gathered, Selwin is a typical motor racing pragmatist and isn’t one for bold statements. “We’ve got a good starting point, but we have to get racing to see where we stack up,” he says. “It’s Balance of Performance racing, so there’s a game just in that. I think we will start bang in the middle. If you look at the results in GT4 it’s hard to pick a winner: one week it’s a BMW, another it’s a Ford Mustang. What would you buy to get a competitive edge? Cars are probably bought more because of a passion for brands rather than anything, and we win a little bit there. It’s always a surprise how people are champing at the bit for a Lotus.”
But not much of a surprise. It’ll be good and heartening to see Britain’s favourite sports car maker back where it belongs, on the race tracks of the world.