The Ultimate Time Attack Tesla Model S Plaid
Drivers Spotlight #12: Craig Coker and the The Unplugged Performance Tesla Model S Plaid
Drivers Spotlight: Craig Coker (Unplugged Performance Tesla Model S Plaid)
The evolution of EV performance in recent years can't be ignored whether you're in support or against their prosperity. We do know that EVs are bringing a different kind of speed to tracks worldwide. Of course, the original intent of EVs was to reduce carbon emission numbers for street vehicles. Now, EV manufacturers and consumers have started pushing the boundaries of what battery-powered vehicles can achieve when it comes to performance on track.
Meet Craig Coker, a former professional freestyle skier turned EV race driver. Craig drives a Tesla Model S Plaid that has been prepared for Time Attack by the team at Unplugged Performance. "Once I retired from skiing, I wanted to retain an adrenaline rush. To get into motorsports late in the game, you need to be unique or have an abundance of support money. My passion for EVs stems from my RC hobbies as a kid. I grew up in the mountains, and canyon driving was second nature to me. I loved it. Motorsports always intrigued me during my skiing career, so I wasn't surprised when I transitioned into a motorsports athlete", Craig tells us.
"Initially, I bought a Tesla Model 3 Performance, which I still own, to turn into a rally spec. I went to Team O'Neil rally school back east, which sparked this ambition. Unfortunately, there was no interest from the rally industry then, so I linked with Unplugged Performance and started tracking Teslas driving for them."
Craig believes Teslas are some of the most reliable platforms for tracking, mentioning that "tech is rapidly evolving though and more companies are getting evolved in the EV automotive industry."
The Unplugged Performance Model S Plaid Craig races is fitted with custom 4-way Ohlins TTX dampers, Unplugged Performance carbon ceramic big brake kit on all corners, and the full catalog of billet suspension links by Unplugged Performance. "Andrew Brilliant designed all of the aero to make a unique fit for this build," says Craig. The wheels are 19x13 Unplugged Performance -03, wrapped with Yokohama A005 330 Slicks, squared up. The team at Unplugged Performance designed the wide body in-house, known as the Apex-S kit.
The Unplugged Performance Model S Paid has claimed EV lap records along the west coast at tracks including Laguna Seca, Willow Springs, and Buttonwillow. He has claimed multiple wins at NASA Time Trial competitions and even garnered a 2nd place podium finish at the NASA Championships at Laguna Seca. Craig and the team have plans to campaign the car at more events starting this July.
Craig considers seat time the most crucial element for a driver to go faster around any given track. But when it comes to vehicle modification, he feels tires can drastically improve a car's handling. "Tires alone can make a car seconds quicker," Craig says.
Regarding improving his craft, Craig has been fortunate to have former professional racer Randy Pobst as his mentor. "I've worked with him at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb for four years. It's been a big help, but I think it's a combination of many things though. There are so many avenues of material to learn from through reviewing record lap videos on YouTube and LapMeta, personal video review, sim racing, data analytics, meditation, track memorization, and cross-training for muscle memory."
Craig aspires to become even more ingrained in the EV racing community. "I want to keep pushing the evolution of EVs and promote this flavor in motorsports. I intend to stay in the space of EVs and hyper-focus on it. I'd like to be seen as one of the first at the forefront of EV motorsports. I will keep pushing for track records but eventually branch into different categories. I am interested in racing in wheel-to-wheel events along with rallycross. I'm fortunate to be at a track almost every week, which has expedited my goals."
When we asked Craig what the reaction has been competing with an EV vehicle in a predominately combustion-dominated segment, he eluded that everyone has been supportive. "So far, people have been very welcoming even though I'm one of the few EVs on the track. The community is friendly and willing to help even if you're the competition. I enjoy the conversations and answering people's questions about EVs.".
Craig believes the future of automotive performance will see a mix of combustion and EVs. "Motorsports will have combustion vehicles for quite a long time. They will likely be around for the rest of my lifetime. EVs are still controversial and in their infancy, but I think they will become a force soon. Sure, everyone will miss the sound of a combustion vehicle shifting through gears (I do). Still, EVs have something that is absolutely incredible—instantaneous torque and blistering quick speeds that you can control with fewer inputs. EVs have some weight and charging infrastructure limitations, but that is quickly being solved. By the end of 2024, I think it will be eye-opening for many people in the time attack community. There will be some great (cheaper) options, and the benefits of EVs on track will be undeniable."
We can only imagine what Craig and the team at Unplugged Performance will achieve in the future with EV-performance vehicles. Ride for a record lap around Willow Springs Raceway, where Craig turns a 1:20.03. Watch it here!