This is Jaguar’s I-type Formula E racer | Top Gear
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This is Jaguar’s I-type Formula E racer

Get the full low-down on Jag’s electric motorsport debut

Published: 08 Sep 2016
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Jaguar’s racing history is pretty binary. You’ve got the stratospheric highs of C-types, D-types and the XJR-19 winning Le Mans, and the more recent doldrums of its failed attempt to crack into the winning circle in F1’s V10 era. Now we’re into the third chapter of Jaguar’s international motorsport efforts. Question is, will Formula E bring silverware back to the Midlands?

Today, Jaguar showed off the final livery of its Formula E contender (the phosphorous blue is the same colour as the ambient lighting in your XE, tech geeks), and christened its battery-powered single-seater ‘I-type 1’. Well, the more appropriate ‘E-type’ moniker was already taken.

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Jaguar’s also confirmed its title sponsor and tech partner in Formula E for 2017 and beyond is Panasonic, who ironically also had a crack at F1 in the 2000s with Toyota, and left with little to show for it. Panasonic provides the head-up display units for Jaguar road cars, and is touting big tech crossover back from the I-type into future Jaguar EVs.

Team engineering boss Nick Rogers says there’ll be three areas that I-type data can influence a future, say, E-Pace electric crossover. Its battery tech (fast-charging, heat management and weight-saving will be scruitinised), control systems, and the all-important motors. Initially, Formula E cars were all set up identically by Williams Advanced Engineering, but as of this season teams can R&D their own bespoke powertrain solutions, so long as they don’t contravene the 880kg car weight limit – 8kg less than last season’s. 

Still, there’s a major onus on the drivers to be competitive when the season kicks off in Hong Kong in October, and donning the Jaguar overalls is ex-GP3 champion Mitch Evans from New Zealand, and Northern Ireland’s previous A1 GP champ Adam Carroll. Chinese driver Ho-Pin Tung takes the reserve seat.

So, why Formula E for Jaguar? Why not Le Mans, or touring cars? At the team's launch ceremony, Panasonic Jaguar Racing team chairman Gerd Mauser said Formula E appeals because it’s “an innovative series with competitive, close racing in front of urban audiences. It develops EV tech and helps change the perception of electric cars [into something exciting]”. 

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Jaguar is pushing the narrative that it was the first manufacturer to use race-bred tech like disc brakes, monocoque chassis and twin-cam engines throughout its road-car range, and sees Formula E as the most efficient manner of getting racetrack nowse into street cars once again. 

Jaguar joins Renault and DS in the burgeoning group of road carmakers dipping a toe into electric motorsport, with Audi also reportedly considering a full house works team. If that came to pass, Formula E would equal Formula One’s total of four street car-making teams on the books (Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and Mercedes, since you ask). 

We’ll discover how Formula E compares to other Jaguar racing ventures later this year. In the meantime, is Jaguar’s involvement enough to tip your allegiance toward electric motorsport?

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