P3+ autocross evaluation - part 2 of Tesla vs Porsche

P3+ autocross evaluation - part 2 of Tesla vs Porsche

OK, this is the detailed version of my autocross (ax) with the Porsche club today.

I have been teaching and ax-ing with the Porsche club for about 25 years, but for the last 5 years I have mostly been doing big track events, so I am a bit rusty at ax.

I showed up with a Tesla, so I definitely was the center of attention, not the three 2018 GT3 RS's, nor the other GT3's and GT4's. To start, I lowered the tire pressure from 45 to 39 cold to be closer, knowing they would need to be lowered more later. As I was doing this, one guy asked it he could get a ride, I said sure (As an instructor, I can take people for rides to help teach?) Before I got the start, another lady asked if she could catch a ride in back. Sure, this is just for fun, what is a few hundred pounds in passengers! Never had a back seat to fill at the track.

My biggest concern for the day was the nannies or stability control system. I don't have the track mode yet and my Model S P85 was not great on the track as the traction control just wanted to keep things under control and it was also just too big. So the three of us went out for a first practice lap, I got a 1:10, but didn't know how that compared. This is about a 1-1.5 miles track with speeds in the 40-70+ mph range. After watching a bunch of cars, they all seemed to be around 1:14 except a GT4 on nice tires did a 1:05.9. After a couple more laps, I was down to 1:08, but the tires were reading nearly 50 psi, so I decided that was enough for the session.

As I parked, a worker came up and said I should check my brakes as they were smoking on the track. This is a good warning for others going to track their car, especially the P3+ has good brakes, but you don't use them on the street so they had never been heated up before and were burning off coatings and bedding. I didn't noticed any excessive wear, no fade or soft pedal, but they were definitely being used heavily to slow a 4000 lbs car on this track.

As the day progressed, I noticed the 1:08 wasn't bad, but I needed to do better. Also, this car drives very different from all the Porsches I have driven over the years. There were people standing at the start to just watch and video the launch around the first corner. It just blew the GT3 RS's away off the live. Since the start wasn't perfectly level, launch control wouldn't work in the GT3, so it wasn't even close.

For my second practice session, again I was asked for rides from several people and every time I came to grid for the next lap, someone would be there with their thumb up for a ride. By my second session, I was able to start to get the feel of the car and dropped my time to 1:06.xx. Now I am actually getting in the range of the best of the best. Wow.

OK, now that I am really pushing, I can experience the traction/stability control and WOW. This totally blew me away. Porsche has a really really good system, light years ahead of BMW etc when really pushed, but the Tesla is better. There is absolutely NO REASON any non-pro or near pro would need track mode. The traction control allowed amazing slip angles, power delivery and times that were close to the best Porsche has to offer. The main reason I want track mode now is to help cool things down. I think I can go faster with track mode allowing more oversteer, which will result in less understeer, but that is really just fine tuning the car, not an issue like with most cars. Very impressive as is. I think the difference is this system can get instant power from the motors, or instantly cut the power and just react faster than the Porsche system which primarily uses just ABS for quick corrections or has to kill the power, but that takes a lot of time. I have never driven a Porsche 918, but I bet its amazing handling is due to its battery power controlling the stability as well. There were a couple times I overcooked a corner and accepted hitting cones, yet every time the car did something and kept me going, not quickly, but on track and going. The smoothness of the intervention was so good, it was almost imperceptible. You just needed to know what the car should do and didn't quite do at times.

For timed runs I tried to push more, and got a lower 1:06, but never put together what I felt was a really good lap. One place or another I kept making a mistake. With perfection, I probably could have gotten top time, but with perfection, the Porsches could have gone faster as well. I got 5th overall, with 4th being a 2018 GT3RS with an experienced driver running 335 hoosier tires, competition alignment, and really is about the best Porsche has to offer at over $200k. 3rd place was a GT4 with really good race tires and ???? Both less than a second ahead.

So, what does the car need? Clearly, to compete with the GT3, I needed bigger and better tires. The Michelin 4S performed well, but are no match to a real track tire. I think Elon said this car was designed for 275 rear and 255 front tires. I think to be serious at the track, those sizes with better rubber are needed. With those tires and track mode, I have little doubt I could have easily gotten top time at a pretty competitive event. The stock Boxsters and Caymans were not even in the hunt. It was the built cars with tires and setups that were close to the totally stock P3.

I did get a couple of reliability scares, the expected low tire pressure warning at the start of sessions wasn't bad, but at one point I got a red exclamation point, clicking showed the issue was low wiper fluid. So, basically, it ran perfect. Never any low power warnings. I do think the brakes were nearing their peak temps, but worked fine. I am a bit nervous about them.

It isn't perfect as physics does still show 4000lbs isn't optimal for a track car, but the advantages of EV and instant power are more of an advantage than the weight penalty.

Here are the results to see the spread of times: full results and car types can be found at

I don't officially get the 5th top time as the Tesla is classified as an X car and not eligible, but the times are the times. I will try to add a link to the Track Addict video when it is uploaded to youtube. I did spend a lot of time talking EV's, so I bet I sold a couple. The jokes about the battery running out ended pretty quickly and I ended the day with about 50% battery. I did notice my usage was at 1875 Wh/m on the track :)

Here is a video of the run, sorry about the quality, apparently Track Addict overrides video stabilization on the camera:

Let me know if you have any questions I can answer.

namviet.hoang | September 16, 2018

I am coming out of lurk mode to tell you that I (and probably some "we") love living vicariously thru you. Thank you for the awesome account of what a P3D can do.

I am not gonna lie and say that I have followed (stalked ;) some of your previous post and hope one day to be able to get lessons from you.

Cannot wait for the videos!

namviet.hoang | September 16, 2018

And... I guess I'll contribute something meaning instead of just drooling at my keyboard...

How much time do you think you will / would've substracted with proper tires? 2% - 5% - 10% (66.5 second lap time ; 1s / 3s / 6s ish?)

djharrington | September 16, 2018

Great post, JAD!

JAD | September 16, 2018

Good tires should be at least 2 seconds, and thanks!

silentcorp | September 16, 2018

Fantastic! Can't wait to get some better tires on mine and try her out at the track!

Newstvguy | September 17, 2018

Thanks SO much for the thorough write-up. As a BMW M3 driver, I was eager to see how this car would do. I'm curious what other cars you've tracked and how you'd compare them to your Tesla?

ebmcs03 | September 17, 2018

Very nice. That sounds very impressive for the model 3 performance. I wonder how a normal RWD model 3 will fair in the same race against the cayman and boxsters?

RIP ICE | September 17, 2018

Thanks, JAD. My car-crazy sons race occasionally and will find this especially interesting.

disapr | September 17, 2018

Thanks for sharing JAD - These results are incredible on 235's!

determination | September 17, 2018

SCCA placed these in DS, will be interesting to see some class results going forward. If the car is understeering already, wouldn't want to induce it more with offset wheels front to rear. Bigger bar would help but haven't seen one offered aftermarket yet. Hoping that MCS comes through at some point with their single adjustable dampers. The Michelins are good all around tires but nothing compared to Bridgestone RE-71R for autocross.

Bill Korea | September 17, 2018

We expect a powerful EV to have advantages on a short, low-speed track. The real test is on a full-size track. Hopefully it will do well there as well.

Magic 8 Ball | September 17, 2018

Awesome! Thanks for the read.

ReD eXiLe ms us | September 17, 2018

Wow. Miata, Elise, Exige, and 2002 are all world renowned for their handling and weigh far less than the Model 3, yet you beat them all! Fascinating. Honda needs to seriously release a fully electric CR-X.

disapr | September 17, 2018

@determination have you heard that MCS is planning something for the Model 3? I had MCS 2-way remote res dampers on my e46.. Absolutely great stuff. I'll definitely buy a set of SA's if they will just make them.

JAD | September 17, 2018

@determination, I think the understeer is more the traction control reducing rotation than an inherent understeer issue. Probably some over driving as well as the car absolutely shoots out of the corners down the straight and I don't have enough experience to know exactly how much to toss it into the next corner. I think the combination of bigger tires and track mode will allow for even better traction out of the corners and more rotation for quicker times.

@Bill, absolutely this is a shorter track car. A GT3RS will destroy it on the roval at Autoclub speedway. This is kinda moving the bar, the story was EV are slow, then the P100D dominated the dragstrip. The story changed to EV can't turn, well they now are going to dominate the AX type tracks. It will likely take the Roadster to dominate at the big tracks, as the current Teslas do lose a lot of performance above 100 mph. If high speed is the only important thing to you, I would recommend sticking with ICE for a couple more years, thus my 911 track car. I will be bring the P3 to a big track next month for a couple sessions to play, but top time of day is not on the radar.

JAD | September 17, 2018

@ebmcs, as much as I like the RWD model 3, I would be very worried about the brakes on a track. I think all model 3's will need brake cooling, even the P3, as the 3800 lbs, great acceleration and great aero combine to make the brakes very hot after a couple laps. I think it will more than hold it own if you fix that.

lph | September 17, 2018

The track mode adds extra 0.1 g regen. That will take some load off the brakes.

seattlemag | September 17, 2018

Awesome, @Jad! Thanks for taking the time to share your experience for those of us living vicariously through you :)

HenrySJ | September 17, 2018

I wonder what a 3400 lbs SR RWD with brake and tire/wheel upgrade will do to the Model 3 popularity ? That will probably be more fun and more accessible to a wider group of enthusiasts.

HollywoodFLM3 | September 17, 2018

JAD, I think Tesla needs to start buying your cars for you. You are demonstrating the model 3s performance at a high level. It's great advertising. Atleast make a business card with your referal code for anyone who asks you for a ride.

I just upgraded from the P3D- to the P3D+. I know nothing about racing, but I may want to take the car to a track a few times with an instructor just to appreciate my own limits. Sounds like I will never need to use track mode tough. Oh well it comes with bigger better looking rims!

Alex_SD | September 17, 2018

Just out of curiosity: what was the SOC on your fastest lap? You mentioned 50% at the end of the day, was there a significant loss of performance?


carlk | September 17, 2018

That's a good point. JAD you could make Youtube videos with your referral code attached. You may even be able to track your own (free) Roadster two years from now.

JAD | September 17, 2018

Here is the first video, and thanks for the referral code idea, I added it to the youtube comments!

I will try to add a couple more videos, but the quality isn't quite as good as I hoped.

JAD | September 17, 2018

@Alex, the state of charge for the fastest lap was 50%. The performance may have been down slightly, but realistically was more than adequate for an autocross. At the drag strip every tenth really matters, at an AX driving skill really is more important than a bit of HP.

Of course, if there was a million in prize money, I would have found a way to charge it!!! As is, I thought it was much more important to show the Porsche people the little electric car has no problem racing all day without charging. Charging just isn't the issue people think it is. The time was really impressive, and certainly could be significantly better with a few tweeks.

socaldave | September 17, 2018

Great fkin read, and thanks for the links! Well done, mate!

jimglas | September 17, 2018

thank you for that vicarious thrill! A great read.
Now I just need my car to be delivered.

Alex_SD | September 17, 2018

Indeed, autocross is not all about horse power... it's about tires, handling and braking...
You do have two main advantages over the Porsche 911 GT3: All wheel drive and professional experience.
I'm not sure that all other drivers were instructors... Do you know the drivers you raced against? Was it fair game? (;-)) Cool video! Was it the Qualcomm Stadium parking lot in San Diego?

JAD | September 17, 2018

yep, tires are king. Throw in some rain and I would have had top time by several seconds over everyone!

I know a lot of the drivers, many long time instructors like me, several in GT3's. I do think I may be a bit better driver, but there are a lot of variables. The fact the under any circumstances the P3 was in the battle is pretty impressive I think.

Yes, that was Qualcomm.

JAD | September 17, 2018

One more video from practice 1,

Also, I used my pyrometer on the tires at the event and was pleasantly surprised to have very good temps across all four tires. The temps were taken after a short brake cooldown drive, but were around 110, 118, 115 on the fronts, with the rears about 10 degrees warmer, but surprisingly not showing a need for a ton of camber like most cars.

carlk | September 17, 2018

Thanks for those videos. Wish someone was taking videos from outside when you made those runs.

JayInJapan | September 17, 2018

Nice job, JAD! Thanks for sharing. I always read your track posts with great interest.

JAD | September 17, 2018

Carlk, I know a couple of people were talking videos, but they haven't posted them to YouTube. Maybe tomorrow.

Nicktoledo | September 17, 2018

Great read, thanks JAD. Keep it up! I have a P3D-, waiting to hear more about the aftermarket track mode option for the (-) version.

Bighorn | September 18, 2018

Excellent. Thanks!

JAD | September 18, 2018

The p3- should carve a canyon and leave you giggling like nothing else. The traction control really let's you play and gently corrects over zealous driving. I hope a great aftermarket brake cooking kit comes out.

ReD eXiLe ms us | September 18, 2018

JAD: For 'Brake Cooling' do you mean a passive system with extra vents cut into the bumper, fenders, and hood; or an active system with additional fans and air conditioning systems aimed at the brakes and wheel wells; or exhaust ports above and behind the wheel wells to bleed off heat more quickly?

JAD | September 18, 2018

They need a passive system to duct air over them. If you look closely at the nose there is an impressive duct that goes from the front to next to the wheels which really helps with the high pressure that forms next to the wheel. Racecars have big dive planes sticking out from in front of the wheel well to do this at the expense of drag. This is great, but also needs air blowing directly over or into the vanes of the rotor, which would combine to work well I think.

I added both to my 911 as well. They attach to the bottom of the A-arm and scoop air up into the rotor. They don't improve the drag co-efficient, but they help with brake cooling a lot. You also must keep it on the track or you usually replace them, or so I have heard :)

I might take a picture of my 911 this weekend to gives some ideas to the aftermarket people who may be lurking here.

JAD | September 18, 2018
JAD | September 18, 2018

Just for comparison, here is a friend who is also a good driver/instructor in a race prepped Boxster S at that event..

His best time was a 1:10.7.

JAD | September 19, 2018

Was detailing the car today to clean it up and noticed the tires:

While it shouldn't be surprising that throwing a ~4000 lbs car around an ax will eat tires, be warned!

djharrington | September 19, 2018

The price of fun!

jimglas | September 20, 2018


JAD | September 20, 2018

Well, since I 'got' to take my wheel off to fix the screw in my tire this morning, I carefully examined the brakes. Everything looks as expected, I wouldn't say zero wear from a track day, but certainly nothing out of the ordinary. A bit more brake dust than usual, but the pads and rotors didn't wear out like some early reports with the standard brakes on the track. And I was pushing the car and brakes pretty hard to catch the GT3's with their carbon ceramic brakes and 335 race tires :)

Mike83 | September 20, 2018

Thanks JAD. Great info. I must tell my wife to slow down a bit so she doesn't wear out the tires; on second thought she can do what she wants ;-)
I need to detail her car if I can get her to not drive it one day.

Bill Korea | September 21, 2018

Well I never thought EVs had to be slow, or handle poorly. I don't think they have a full performance envelope either - not yet. I do believe people would rather purchase light trucks, which are unpleasant to drive under almost all circumstances. I do not understand people.

JAD | September 21, 2018

I disagree. This car will easily beat the similarly priced Porsches on any track. I think the $200,000+ dedicated track cars will easily win on a big track, but hardly fair to say that means EVs can't compete. This is a four door affordable sedan giving Porsche a good run. The new roadster will be priced in line with the GT3 and destroy it at everything as far as I can tell.

SamO | September 21, 2018


Great point. This is a civic-killer that drives like a GT3.

When I saw the Roadster at the Semi event, it was so fast it looked like a cartoon. It will make gas cars look like "a steam engine with a side of quiche."


katole | October 19, 2018

Hey JAD !
Thank you again for all this info, particularly, " There is absolutely NO REASON any non-pro or near pro would need track mode" .... this statement makes me believe that I should have no issues with the traction control system making it difficult to control at the hands of mere mortals.
.... I am hoping to take my stealth p3d to adams motorsports park some time soon .. on stock 18" tires
is there any chance i could meet you at one of your autocross events for a little training ? (i am in long beach)

disapr | October 19, 2018

Still feel that way JAD.. even on a large fast track..

JAD | October 19, 2018

Hi katole, it would be fun to have a few Teslas show up at an AX and I could give you some pointers.

As far as track mode, it isn't needed on a long track other than to keep the car at full power. Something limited the power at the big track but it could have just been the low battery state of charge, or the heat, or the nannies. Not sure which, but other than that, the track mode would not be needed for most drivers. You can safely have a lot of fun as the nannies didn't intervene roughly.

I must say, I would be worried about the brakes on a stealth P3D. Really watch those and do everything you can to keep them cool under any race conditions. Remove the aero covers for sure to help dissipate heat.