A nation-versus-nation electric sportscar series has been launched under the Elite World Cup banner ahead of a projected autumn 2024 kick-off with a grid of Lotus Evijas.
The global championship, which was unveiled in Johannesburg on Monday, has been co-founded by three key players in the A1 Grand Prix World Cup of Motorsport of 2004/05 to 2008/09.
Liu Yu and Tokyo Sexwale, the former seat holders of the national A1GP teams from China and South Africa respectively, have joined forces with the championship’s general manager and then commercial head during its development and first two seasons, Stephen Watson, to establish the Elite World Cup in time for a winter-season campaign in 2024/25.
Their series has no connection with the A1GP revival planned by the Origin Sports Group, which announced in May that it has bought the rights to the name and is seeking to raise £80 million for a relaunch.
The founders of the Elite World Cup have revealed that they already have the finance in place to get the series off the ground with the build 50 EV racers, which will most likely be based on the 2000 bhp Evija hypercar or supersportscar first shown in 2019.
They are engaged in final talks with Lotus Cars and parent company Geely to finalise an agreement to use the Evija, which provided the centrepiece for Monday’s launch in South Africa.
The Elite World Cup is aiming to attract buy-in from 25 national teams using a similar franchise model to the original A1GP.
Ex-Formula 3000 racer Watson, who was subsequently tournament director of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, explained that discussions are already underway with potential franchisees.
“We have shared our ideas with some parties and we have strong interest already — we have people telling us they are coming in,” he told Motorsport.com.
The word Elite in the name of the series refers to the profile of driver it is attempting to attract.
“A1GP very quickly became a kind of junior formula, a stepping-stone for young drivers,” said Watson. “We want drivers who have flown the flag for their nation in Formula 1, IndyCar, NASCAR or other high-level series, including the World Rally Championship.
“We know what having a big name representing their country does for a series from A1GP times: when Jos Verstappen was driving for the Dutch team, the dunes at Zandvoort for his home race were a sea of orange.
“That is why we are calling this the Elite World Cup, because we want the most distinguished and highest profile drivers possible from each country.”
Each national team will require a minimum of two drivers.
Race weekends will be made up of a sprint race on the Saturday of around 40 minutes, before a mini-endurance race of approximately one hour and 20 minutes on Sunday.
Both races will in essence be relays: when one car pits it will be replaced on track by the team’s second entry.
There will be a minimum of one pitstop in the sprint and three in the main race, which means fast-charging will be employed to replenish battery levels.
So-called emerging motorsport nations will only be required to run one driver from their own country and can sign non-nationals for the other seat or seats.
Watson explained that the decision not to follow the single-seater route had been taken to give the series a unique selling point.
“I think that space is completely captured with the success of F1 and we didn’t want to go the route of replicating A1GP with EVs because there is already Formula E out there,” he explained.
“An electric hypercar will resonate more with the man on the street because it is closer to something you can see on the road, and it also appealed to our investment group, which is predominantly Chinese.”
The Elite World Cup is targeting 18 nations for its debut season of eight race weekends starting in September or October next year, with a hoped-for 25 countries competing over 10 events in season two.