Organized 8 years ago, the Riviera Electric Challenge became a real regularity rally a few years ago. A friendly event in which Automobile Propre was able to participate behind the wheel of the new electric Kia Niro.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a regular rally. My last participation dates back to 2015. At the time, I was hired as a co-driver behind the wheel of one of the first prototypes of the Renault ZOE ZE40 as part of the ZENN (Zero Emission No Noise) rally organized by the Automobile Monaco club. When Kia invites me to relive the adventure behind the wheel of the new Niro in the Riviera Electric Challenge.
From Cagnes-sur-Mer to Monaco via Turini
When it started in 2015, the Riviera Electric Challenge (REC) was just a simple gathering of electric vehicles. Regularity events only appeared two or three years ago to add a new dimension to the event. Despite the introduction of this competition component, the REC remains primarily a friendly event composed largely of neophytes. Open to professionals and individuals, it brings together a large part of the offer available on the market. The opportunity for participants to exchange with other owners.
Organized within the framework of EVER Monaco, a leading exhibition for electric vehicles in the Principality, REC associates the municipality of Cagnes-sur-Mer with the Italian authorities. Hence this rally that starts in Cagnes through the famous Col de Turini and the Italian Alps before heading to the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, the arrival point of this 2022 edition.
Regularity, what is it?
Not associated with speed, regularity is based, as its name suggests, on… regularity. The objective is to have as few points as possible respecting different time limits without going too fast or too slow.
For this, you have to follow the route imposed by a road-book but also a “point” at the various CP (checkpoints) at well-defined times. Except for end-of-day CPs where early check-in is authorized, you must arrive within the minute indicated on the tracking sheet given to each crew. Arriving too early or too late is equivalent to (foolishly) receiving penalty points. As long as you follow the road book carefully, this part isn’t too complicated, the times allocated between each CP are long enough to get there without having to play crazy behind the wheel.
The famous Regularity Zones, or ZR for friends, are already more complicated. Punctuating the race, these stretches, which revolve around ten kilometers each, must be performed at the averages imposed by the organization. Each second of advance or delay is sanctioned by a penalty point.
The rally taking place on open roads, the speeds required in the ZR cannot exceed the legislation, ie 50 km/h on the mountain roads used. In total, the REC consisted of 8 ZRs with speeds varying between 30 and 46 km/h. If it looks simple on paper, in reality it is a little more complicated… Because this average is also essential in the laces and tight curves that you have to know how to anticipate. At this point, electric vehicles have a clear advantage over their thermal counterparts. Without gearboxes, they benefit from immediate torque that allows them to quickly get back up to speed in case of delay.
Each crew must also accept the various race suits. With the road open, it is possible to cross/overtake bicycles, cars, animals and even motorhomes which, in sometimes narrow sections, quickly lose time (and earn points).
To help the mostly novice crews, the organization installed a device in each car to track its mileage. Provided by Blunik, it also made it possible to assist the driver in the famous ZR through a system of three LEDs helping to stay “in time” allocated. A system I finally lovingly renamed “Blushit” at the end of the competition (to find out why, you’ll have to read on).
A new electric Kia Niro that sticks to the road
While consistency is nothing new to me, this is my first time behind the wheel. A member of the Kia France team, Julien accompanies me throughout the race as a co-driver.
Less comfortable in dynamic driving than other members of the editorial team like Max, Soufyane or Pierre, I face this Riviera Electric Challenge with a little apprehension, especially as the rain arrived on the first day of the rally. An electric Niro weighing over 1,800 kilos on soggy mountain roads, where you sometimes need to bomb to gain speed, can hurt!
Despite a certain body roll that was difficult to erase due to the size of the machine, Niro managed to put me at ease quickly. Riveted to the bitumen, it turns out to be quite fun to drive thanks to the good impulses of its 204 horsepower engine. The effectiveness of ESP, which has reached us more than once, has something to do with it. Continental EcoContact tires too! Personally, I drive a Kona Electric every day. I would never dare subject Hyundai’s electric SUV to the same fate with its Nexen mount (a real crap on wet roads).
Our electric Niro even felt more comfortable than the Kia EV6. Also engaged in racing, the large Korean sedan had more difficulty operating on small roads due to its size.
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The paddle system on the steering wheel to regulate the engine brake intensity at various levels also helped me a lot to better brake the speed imposed on the downhill phases where the brake pedal tended to be less precise. While I’m not a big fan of heads-up play, we missed his absence on Niro, where it would help keep speed in sight.
On the conso side, I give you the figure for the form. When we arrived in Monaco, the on-board computer showed us an average of 17.4 kWh/100 km after 266 km traveled throughout the entire event. This is correct knowing that there were obviously huge disparities between the ascent phases, where we could exceed 20 kWh/100 km, and the descent phases, where we consume next to nothing.
The ranking: honor is safe!
Of the more than forty participants, we finished the race in eleventh position with a total of 248 points! If honor had been saved, clearly we could have done better. Aside from the few crossing problems and a cow found in one of the ZRs, it was also and above all the Blunik unit that caused us problems by regularly losing the GPS signal (hence the Blushit). Result: not knowing whether we were ahead or behind the imposed average, we advanced blindly and received a lot of penalty points. A frustrating fact of the race that ended up penalizing many crews.
In the end, some came out better than others. First place went to the older generation of Niro, led by two rally regulars. Then came a Peugeot e-208 inscribed by Mission Energy Transition and a new electric Niro in Kia France colors.
Access to the general ranking
Riviera Electric Challenge 2022 – Photos
Photo credits: REC 2022