ELITE was founded by Evali Industrial, a multi-billion-credit surface vehicle conglomerate producing countless models of aircars and ground vehicles throughout Citadel space from hoverbikes to massive grav-train cargo haulers (and including race-ready vehicles). Over time Evali had found itself in a rivalry of sports with Lensis Master Engineering, a relatively small independent manufacturer which, in addition to producing a range of highly sought-after mass-produced components, handcrafts high-performance sporting vehicles to the specifications of (extremely wealthy) individual buyers. The two saw their products pitted against one another in countless air and ground vehicle racing events, until their rivalry-via-sport that became a significant factor in public perception of their business worth, with market analysts noting correlations between their fortunes and how well teams using their hardware performed in various championships.
In 1214 CE the two companies announced the ELITE racing series, with the stated intention of creating a championship so technically demanding that only the finest engineering in the galaxy would allow a team to prosper, let alone win (the joint venture was met with some surprise, given the history of antagonism that had built between the companies, but commentators noted that both chairpersons had wisely counted on their participation in the championship being a priceless mark of quality in public eyes, regardless of which of their teams beat the other in any given year).
The inaugural championship consisted of six races: two each on Thessia and Sur'Kesh, one on Sanves, and one on Nasurn. Massive audience support for the series quickly led to its expansion, finally stabilising at sixteen races per season. The six original circuits remain constant, but other venues are chosen on a two-yearly basis, and competition among hopeful host worlds is fierce, reflecting the considerable sporting prestige, and tourist income, ELITE racing brings with it.
Meanwhile a number of other manufacturers have entered their own teams, resulting in a current roster of 22 teams (two each for Essan, Lensis, and the Armali Council, which are required to maintain operational independence from one another beyond the vehicle manufacturing stage), each entering a single vehicle. Competition is as fierce for team entry to the series as it is for hosting rights, with corporations from virtually every major industrial export world vying for a spot, based on performance in other racing series. Once a team has been allowed to compete, it is unwritten tradition among fans that it is still regarded as 'unproven' until it has produced a single vehicle model that wins five races. The newest entrant to the field, and first human team, is Lamborrari.
Despite the range of output of the founding companies, ELITE consists exclusively of ground vehicles, with lateral acceleration restricted solely to what can be achieved via wheel friction, and a series of short-use thrusters (currently set to allow a maximum of 7 seconds use per pit cycle). Mass effect technology is employed heavily in vehicle design and performance, but tightly regulated by the sport's governing body regarding the uses it can be put to; vehicles are scrutinised in minute detail to ensure compliance, although (excepting unforseen potentially hazardous designs) teams are encouraged to push their designs to the very limit of what is allowed. ELITE's technical science committee publishes engineering rule additions and changes annually at the beginning of each season, to come into effect at the start of the following year.
Tracks vary from season to season, with the established venues - especially the 'founding six' - generally only making minor alterations, based on changes in vehicle engineering, while other circuits often put forward radical track proposals to attempt to gain the approval of the governing body. ELITE vehicles are not permitted to be capable of gravity redirection - remaining stable on perpendicular or inverted surfaces - but a significant amount of gravity mitigation is permitted, which in combination with the vehicles' speed and certain allowed traction-generating technologies results in ELITE vehicles being capable of briefly handling heavily banked corners, or even momentary inversion in loops and corkscrews. Jumps are often featured, but are among the most heavily-regulated track features.
All ELITE vehicles are fitted with numerous safety devices, given the inherent danger of crashes in such a high-speed environment. Shock-foam forms a driver's primary defence against injury, with complex onboard VIs detecting unrecoverable conditions and encasing the driver in a fast-forming globe of shock-absorbant molecular foam, which can be either contained within the vehicle or ejected from it, where it will be 'caught' by tractor fields installed in the course and guided to a safe landing off the track. Given the stakes involved, it has been known for teams to adjust their VIs to prevent bailing a driver out of a situation that they feel may be salvageable, however - with at least one crash per race a virtual certainty - ELITE organisers maintain very strict standards on the configuration of safety equipment, and on one occasion issued a permanent ban to a team found to have knowingly altered their vehicle's safety VI settings outside of allowed parameters.
- As the page image indicates, it's kind of Speed Racer in space - because as soon as we figure out how to do that to Formula One without killing drivers all the time, come on, we're going to do it.