The Insider: industry insight on how Jaguar takes tech from the track to the road
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Having been in the automotive industry most of my life and working on a luxury performance brand, it’s hard not to appreciate the impressive machinery and technology of the motorsport world. A world I know all too well and follow avidly.
My first introduction to the Jaguar brand and its racing heritage was in 1985 when the Jaguar racing team took out the Bathurst 1000 in that British racing green XJ-S. As a Peter Brock fan, the Jaguar win was a hard pill to swallow.
It was then I realised the British brand was one to keep an eye on.
Times have changed and rather rapidly since 1985. Jaguar still has a strong racing presence, more recently racing in the Jaguar eTrophy championship and Formula E series.
Having my foot in the door of the motoring industry most of my life, I have seen a lot of change and innovation. One thing which has always stuck with me is how the motorsport industry and the production-based side of the automotive industry directly evolve from one another.
It often surprises me how new and luxury car buyers are still taken back by the performance, handling, and innovations in some of the vehicles we see on our roads today. Most of which has evolved from motorsport.
Features like aerodynamic efficiency, handling, battery and engine performance have transferred from the best race cars and manufacturers to the vehicles we drive on our daily commutes. Even the most simple features, like the start/stop button, which was pulled from the cockpit of race cars as the standard key ignition wasn’t ergonomically compatible for drivers and pit crew.
When we revealed the all-electric I-PACE in 2018, we also launched the Jaguar I-PACE eTrophy race series, the first all-electric production vehicle race series.
After just one season, the Jaguar racing team and technicians were able to take their findings from the track and make the necessary advancements to the road going I-PACE via software over the air technology. These advancements included more battery range and more efficient torque distribution between the front and rear axles, allowing the battery to draw down energy to a lower state of charge than previously, and improved accuracy of the range calculation algorithm.
Much like eTrophy, the Formula E series races entirely electric vehicles, the single-seater motorsport championship is modelled off Formula 1. The electrified race series is carried by some of the front runners in the luxury vehicle segment; Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Audi, Porsche to name a few. In late 2014 the Formula E series commenced on the streets of Beijing and now 7 seasons on we see these same brands launching adaptations of their Formula E race vehicles.
The Jaguar Formula E vehicle, the I-TYPE, and its latest rendition the I-TYPE 5 modelled from heritage models like the D-Type – an iconic model in Jaguars motorsport history which won Le Mans three times. In 2018, Jaguar launched their first all-electric vehicle, the I-PACE. In 2021, at the beginning of the 7th season of Formula E and after the cease of the eTrophy series Jaguar announced their model line-up will be entirely electric from 2025.
When Jaguar launched the I-PACE, customers and Jaguar Racing historians questioned why a thoroughbred, historically sedan-based racing brand would launch an all-electric SUV road vehicle. We now see the consumer mind changing as luxury brands are breaking down the EV stereotypes and producing all-electric vehicles that are modelled off traditional race vehicles like the Audi e-Tron and Porsche Taycan. The performance EVs we see on the road today are equally on par with road-going ICE engines, and in most cases even outperform them.
Every year, car manufacturers invest millions of dollars showcasing their brand, technology, and engineering innovations to the world in the competitive arenas. The motorsport industry sits amongst a handful of some of the highest-paid sports in the world. In 2018, Jaguar spent USD 11.7 million to race in the Formula E, not to mention the millions of dollars in investment to successfully run Jaguars very own all-electric eTrophy race series. Mercedes-Benz estimated annual spend on the Formula 1, Formula Es older sibling is around USD 484 million, for a winning season.
Formula 1 is the highest class of international auto racing and recorded a healthy revenue of 2.022 billion USD in 2019, which was drastically cut by COVID-19 in 2020. In American stock car racing, NASCAR is one of the top series and is estimated to cost about USD 15-20 million, per team, per season.
Automotive manufacturers aren’t just spending the big bucks to stand on the podium or have the biggest fan base - as exciting as the sport is for fans. Manufacturers are investing heavily in the testing of technology and innovation, capability and materials of their race vehicles revolutionising and improving their performance-based road vehicles. With the rapid pace of electrification moving into production vehicles, I look forward to the next evolution in the automotive world.