LOS ANGELES — Car companies like Jaguar go for two reasons. One is to demonstrate their technology as closely as possible, something the British company did to good effect with technologies such as disc brakes and monocoque chassis construction in the 1950s. Other reasons may be less high-end, but no less important racing cars. Call it “speed through association.” That is especially true of racing programs that use road cars as their starting point, which goes some way to explaining the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy, a racing series using electric vehicles. who will travel and race with Circus Formula E next season.
Jaguar was one of the first OEMs to take the idea of electric racing seriously, and has had a team competing in Formula E for some time now. That’s useful for its technological development, but a Formula E race car—with open wheels and a seat—is unlike anything like an EV you or I can buy. What better way, then, for Jaguar to let people know that its new I-Pace EV—which hits showrooms in 2018—can take it than by having a pack of 20 that play themselves out as Support series? And because all the cars will be identical I-Paces, Jaguar is guaranteed to win every race.
“What I love about this type of racing, especially in sports car racing and this kind of thing, what we’re talking about here, about the eTrophy is, it’s recognition,” Bobby Rahal said. The former Indy 500 winner and three-time champion runs a racing team that competes in IndyCar and the IMSA All Weather sports car series, and is now registered as the premier eTrophy team. “It’s something you see on the street; it’s in direct proportion to what’s sold in the showroom, and I don’t think you can overestimate the value of that or the importance of that.”
This is not a novel idea; one-make series together, from the Spec Miata in the grassroots all the way to the Porsche Supercup. Perhaps the most memorable is the BMW M1 Procar competition, which ran alongside Formula 1 in 1979 and 1980 and featured big name drivers and big prize purses. Like Procar, the I-Pace race cars will be tightly controlled by regulations.
It really has to be for you to keep the costs in line because otherwise, the more independent you are, then the more people become involved. Then that nice, well, inexpensive experience is no longer that. And then it just comes to, how much money do you have?”
Old Procars, you can’t do much to those, either, so, again, a great comparison ’cause they’re pretty much the same. The cars are delivered to you to the circuit, they are maintained, so there you go, go racing. Now, I’m sure there will be little things you can do to try to tune the car for a specific circuit, but again, you don’t change the springs, you don’t change the roll bars. It will be down to tire pressures, maybe cambers, castor, things like that, maybe. I’m not sure until we see the full rules package, but it will be pretty restrictive.
The I-Pace is supposed to make a good race car, especially on the occasional roads that have a Formula E calendar. The car is a rather compact crossover, so it should be quite fun. It will have 298kW (400hp) and a 0-60mph time of under four seconds, so it will be fast. And with such a low center of gravity—courtesy of the 90kWh battery pack—it should be a stable platform for drivers to exploit.
Who the 20 drivers will be is still unknown; The first race is not for another year, and Rahal is the first team to participate in the series. Before next December, Jaguar Racing will need nine other teams to sign up to the package, which includes full technical support and logistics. While I doubt Jaguar Racing needs any advice from me about the eTrophy, I can’t help thinking what a great idea it would be to invite a journalist or two at each round. What could possibly go wrong?
Image listing by Jaguar