Jaguar’s new electric tin-top racer
It may sound like a peculiar feat of random capitalisation, but the Jaguar I-PACE etrophy is a one-make series with a potentially electrifying difference
“DRIVERS WILL BE ABLE TO PUSH WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT BATTERY MANAGEMENT”
When the 2018-19 ABB FIA Formula E season gets under way at the Ad Diriyah E-prix next month, the electric championship will have a proper supporting act for the first time. Present at nine rounds on FE’S season-five calendar, with a 10-race schedule (there will be two at the New York round), the Jaguar I-PACE etrophy series will run alongside the main championship. The new competition will pit identical I-PACE race models in events lasting 25 minutes plus one lap following dedicated practice and qualifying sessions. The series is an ‘arrive-and-drive’ competition, for which Jaguar will provide technical and logistical support for its competitors, as well as spares and hospitality. “We are one-make – they’re all identical, they’re all run in-house – and it’s the world’s first electric production vehicle one-make series,” explains Jaguar’s etrophy championship manager Marion Barnaby. The etrophy race cars are modified versions of Jaguar’s recently released I-PACE electric SUV, with a spec body kit and racing set-up. Unlike FE, the etrophy drivers will be able to push flat-out from start to finish without having to worry about energy saving or battery management. “We wanted that from-start-to-finish approach, particularly for season one,” explains Stuart Adlard, senior vehicle engineering manager at Jaguar Land Rover special vehicle operations. “You’ve got less communication involved and you haven’t got to manage different settings. The car is engineered so that it will maintain its performance from the start to the end of the race.” Although the car is supplied as a standard item for all teams, they will be able to adjust bump and rebound on the dampers, tune rollbar settings – there are two positions available at the front and three at the rear – and tweak front and rear brake balance and ABS intervention. The cars are charged by 50kw portable chargers and have a left-hand-drive set-up for “synergies to the road car and engineering simplicity,” according to Adlard. Though it closely resembles the road car, the racing version of the I-PACE has a completely new front end – a new bonnet and new front wings, plus wider wheel arches and cooling gills. The bonnet is unique and performs in a very different way to the road car, which has a much more closed-off grill because it doesn’t need to take in anywhere near as much air. The etrophy machine also features a wider front bumper, a big carbonfibre front splitter to reduce front-end lift, a rear spoiler and “the completely new rear venturi to help balance what we’ve done at the front of the vehicle,” says Wayne Burgess, production studio director at Jaguar, who led the creative design team for the I-PACE road and etrophy cars. “The road I-PACE really was driven by the aerodynamic performance of the vehicle,” he continues. “And you can see that in its aesthetics – it’s very sheer sided, it has no Coke bottle, it isn’t tapered like F-type or E-type. And that’s all been about improving the aerodynamic performance of the car, reducing drag. Because of course with electric vehicles, the lower the drag, the better the range potential.” As an all-new championship, and only the second full-electric series to successfully get to the point of racing, the etrophy is forging its own path in the motorsport landscape. It is particularly novel at this stage – E WTCR has been announced alongside the long-delayed Electric Production Car Series (Electric GT), Motoe and the postponed electric World Rallycross – because
“RACES WILL NO DOUBT BE DISTINGUISHED BY PLENTY OF CAR-TO-CAR CONTACT”
it straddles both the traditional production-based touring car sphere, albeit with an SUV twist, and electric racing. “At present, nobody is a competitor”, says Barnaby. “But it’s coming – every manufacturer, you see announcements every week – as people are saying, ‘We’re not going to build any more diesel engines by this time.’ Electric is coming and the more people in automotive that are coming over to this sector, they’re going to be making race cars. We’re on the Formula E package so it’s more visible, and up and running.” At the time of writing, the competitors announced for the inaugural etrophy season are Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, which will run Katherine Legge and Bryan Sellers, Jaguar Brazil Racing (Caca Bueno and Sergio Jimenez), Team Asia New Zealand (Simon Evans, older brother of Jaguar FE racer Mitch), and Team Germany (Celia Martin). Further multi-car entries are expected from teams hailing from Saudi Arabia and China. These are set to be announced before the first race takes place and the squads featured in the championship’s pre-season tests at Silverstone and Rockingham. Jaguar also plans to field its own entry that will be occupied by “famous faces from the world of motorsport and beyond”, according to the manufacturer, for one-off outings. “It’s a very international championship – as you see from the flags on the bonnets,” explains Barnaby. “The people that are coming through can see this is something you need to be part of from the beginning, because once you have this knowledge of driving an electric vehicle from the start, you can then move on to more things as well.” That potential for career progression in racing raises an interesting question – could the etrophy actually become a feeder series for FE? Given the high torque, low-grip skills required in both series and the knowledge gleaned from racing on the same unique city-centre circuits, Simon Evans does not rule out an etrophy driver graduating to the flagship electric series. “You’ve got to keep an open mind about it [progression to FE],” says the 2014-15 V8 Supertourers New Zealand champion. “All the Formula E teams are going to be watching it so I think it’s a progression because they’re probably going to have very similar driving styles, I’d imagine, between the cars – though no one has done back-to-back tests so far. So if you go well here, it could open up some doors for a future in Formula E.” Given the sizeable proportions of the I-PACE cars and the tight confines of a typical FE street circuit, etrophy races will no doubt be distinguished by plenty of contact. Evans reckons the action is going to be “super-close” so, with plentiful car-to-car clashes on offer, touring car fans should find plenty to interest them. And since the prize fund is in excess of £500,000, there’s a lot riding on it for the drivers too.
“Like any production series around the world there’s going to be some contact, and it’s on street circuits so I think the racing is actually going to be pretty exciting,” Evans says. “It’s going to be tough to pass, but drivers from all series try to find a way to pass.” Given the likelihood that the races will feature a healthy amount of touring car-style panel-bashing, Jaguar has designed the etrophy car with easy repairability in mind. There will also be two spare cars at every race, and Jaguar and the event stewards will decide on allocation should they be needed. “A lot of the new stuff we’ve put on the car is easily removable,” explains Adlard. “So the front fenders, for example, bumpers, the splitters – all those parts come off relatively easily. That’s been a consideration in terms of engineering the new car – how they attach and detach.” The etrophy was first announced back in September 2017, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing committed to its entry two months later. But, beyond RLLR revealing Legge as its first driver, most of the grid wasn’t publically announced until a year later. Barnaby says the long wait for team and driver announcements was because the concept of the series was so unusual. “The idea was there and the programme was there, but a lot of people are in their racing programmes – because we race in the off-season for a lot of people,” she explains. “Also it was about understanding exactly what we’re doing, because up until now we’ve been selling a picture. Now it’s real – the cars are out there. It’s been a huge undertaking by all the team – we had to get everybody in place – just prepping ourselves and in selling the entries as we’ve been going.” Since the I-PACE was the first electric SUV from a major European manufacturer to hit the market, the thinking behind the etrophy series from Jaguar’s point of view is obvious. The tie-up with FE, which Barnaby says is “100%” behind the new series, came as a result of Jaguar’s existing commitment to electric racing. “Because we were the first manufacturer into Formula E, it’s a natural fit,” says Barnaby. “We could see from our racing heritage as well – we needed to build a programme ourselves. And so we were fortunate to be on the programme and to have the foresight to see there was space for a support race.” From an FE perspective, the recent influx of manufacturers to the championship has been a rolling cycle of good news. With the addition of a support series, and one given the full backing and support of a major FE stakeholder, it has found the next logical step. Ultimately, the start of the etrophy also represents a good step for motorsport as a new championship featuring interesting and relevant road technology enters the arena. If it fulfils the promise of the tech – and the potential for paint-trading action around nine of the world’s major cities – it should be quite a spectacle.
Team nationalities will be distinguishable by flags on the bonnets
One of Formula E’s strong suits is the city-centre location of the racing GRIFFITHS/LAT