Blake Fuller, who has set a number of racing records, including in Teslas, just published a fascinating comparison of the 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid, the 2015 Tesla Model S P90DL, and the 2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance in their stunning, record races up Pikes Peak. I’ll come back to that comparison video in a moment, but I want to start with a little more context first.
Three years ago, I attended a Florida Tesla Enthusiasts club meeting where Blake was giving a presentation on his big record race up Pikes Peak in 2016 with his 2015 Tesla Model S P90DL. It was a fascinating presentation — one of the most fascinating I’ve seen at the many EV and clean energy conferences or events I’ve gone to. (And I do plan to finally publish it sometime this year — after accidentally leaving it on the wrong continent for two years.) In the presentation, Blake went into great detail about how he had to hold off on the power at certain places in order to preserve the battery’s power output for other parts of the track. He and his team had analyzed the data to an OCD level in order to plan when and where to put more power on and when and where to hold back a bit. Blake clearly knew every turn like the back of his hand. And his depth of engineering knowledge on batteries and vehicle drivetrains is seemingly as good as it gets — at least, as good as I’ve ever seen anyone demonstrate they understand the details of these things in both a first principles way and a nuanced way.
I’ve also been on a race track with Blake — in the Ford Mustang Mach-E (again, videos on this are planned for editing and production … someday) and in the Tesla Model 3. The dude holds racing records for a reason — he’s a pro. I’m not going to say it’s the same level (it’s surely not), but how he raced around the track reminded me of how Lionel Messi sprints through the field avoiding opponents at an absurd pace.
All of that expertise has some clear pros as well as a con or two in the video below. As noted, the video is a comparison of the Tesla Model S Plaid & 2015 Tesla Model S P90DL & 2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance racing up Pikes Peak. Blake starts off by explaining the video feeds you’re going to see, which is helpful, but for my taste and understanding, it’s a bit too quick and complicated. Not really knowing the track well, it would be easier if there was more of a visual explanation — like a line moving along the map of the track as the car does (not that I would know how to create such a graphic, so no knock on Blake for not having a pro visualization team on hand to do that for this timely video). With that said, there are a lot of interesting and helpful graphics in the video, which aid in understanding the course and appreciating the beautiful (and sometimes scary AF) scenery as well as the Tesla race cars. Overall, the video did help me to better understand the track and also how the three Teslas compared. A little more on that after the video.
First thought: Holy shit — that’s a truly freaky drive at that speed.
Actually, that covers most of my thoughts watching the video feeds.
Second thought: Watching the video a few times does help to get a better orientation and to be able to compare the three cars and where they are on the track in a useful way. I recommend watching at least twice.
Third thought: Part of the problem with comparing the side-by-side video feeds for a lay person is that the Model S Plaid just gets so far away from the others (as Blake points out very well several times). It’s then simply hard to tell where on the track the different vehicles are. (Again, a line for each car on the map that was in sync with the cars as the video rolls would be awesome — but I’m sure also extremely difficult to create.)
Final thought: Clearly, Tesla has done a phenomenal job pulling more and more power out of its motors and batteries for extended periods of time as it has refined its batteries and powertrains over the past several years. It’s stunning what the young company has done with the Model S Plaid, and you can hear that come across in Blake’s voice throughout the video — and if he finds it stunning, I think we all should.
I look forward to seeing what Blake can do with his Model S Plaid when it arrives. Though, I have to admit that I’d never get in the car with him at Pikes Peak. That’s well beyond my comfort level!