First Drive: the Jaguar Project 7
TG gets behind the wheel of the stunning 542bhp concept, built in tribute of Jag's Le Mans victories...
You may have seen the Project 7 going up the hill at Goodwood, driven by Jag's chassis supremo Mike Cross. He knows his way around this thing, which is why I'm pleased he's sat beside me now. Because I happen to be in the driver's seat, recently vacated by the Stig, who's left it curiously warm. But before we fire up the V8 and go for a - possibly literal - spin, here's a spot of history...
Along the corridors of Jaguar's HQ is a gallery of Le Mans pics, a sort of Cool Wall of old winners from Fifties D-Types to Nineties XJRs. One day, designer Cesar Pieri was walking past. When he got back to his desk, and with a brain full of fins and wings and stripes, he got his pencil out and started sketching. What emerged from his drawing board was the the Project 7, based on an F-Type and named after the number of times Jaguar has won the Le Mans 24 Hour.
Officially it's just a design study, but this isn't some static display. So I press the starter button and the 5-litre V8 wakes up with a primal burp. A spot of laptop surgery has boosted power from the regular V8's 488bhp to an even healthier 542bhp. There's functional aero everywhere, from the new carbon chin to the sharp wing on the back. Then there's the hump behind the driver's head, inspired by the aero fin on the 1955 D-Type. The 0-100kph time has dropped from 4.3 seconds to 4.1 - partly due to the extra power, but also because the fabric roof has been ripped out so it's about 20kg lighter.
Click the gear selector into drive, apply generous amount of throttle and... oof, this thing goes. Feels like a very different machine to the regular F-Type. Maybe it's all the extra noise, or that my face is rippling in the wind (the short windscreen means the side windows are completely removed). Or maybe it's the smoke. Because if you're not careful you'll spin the rears and the cloud they create will follow you down the road until it's poured into the cabin, in your ears and up your nose.
This thing is clearly programmed to show off. And unlike some of the more sober creations from other car companies, it has a sense of humour. Just look at the Jag badge on the front - the cat's wearing shades. It's like a cartoon for grown-ups. Time for a few more laps, I reckon.