Tesla’s Model X may be roaming the all-electric SUV plains unchallenged, but a predator in the form of the Jaguar I-Pace is coming to fight for territory. With Audi’s E-Tron right behind it, the I-Pace is going to need to establish some dominance, and what better way for a car to do so than in motorsport?
The Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy is a racing series that will exclusively feature the I-Pace, one that will follow Formula E and race on its same street courses. The main difference here is that this is a car you can buy for yourself. Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations will provide the cars to all teams, the first of which to sign on is Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. I spoke to former Indianapolis 500 winner and team owner Bobby Rahal about the thought process behind taking an EV people-mover and turning it into a race car.
Q: What characteristics of the I-Pace make it viable for motorsport competition?
A: Historically, you look at this type of vehicle and it’s not looked upon as a performance car, it’s looked upon as a people-mover, and the I-Pace is probably the first one that kind of has done both. I think it’s one of those things where people scratch their heads initially before they really have the chance to drive it or see it personally. But now that people have been able to do both, they say “oh, yeah, I get it.” We’re anxious to put the car through its paces.
Q: How much parity does the race version of the I-Pace have with the road-going version?
A: Well, like any car or truck or that gets turned into a race car of some type, you pretty much raise the nameplate up and throw a whole new car underneath, but that’s not the case in this situation because the race car is going to be very heavily based on the street car. Of course, there’s going to be safety modifications like a roll-bar and things like that, but I think it’s going to hold pretty true to the production version.
Q: Do you feel that Formula E has demonstrated an appeal for e-racing and that eTrophy will be capable of the same draw if not more?
A: With the inclusion of teams backed by Mercedes, Audi, Porsche and Jaguar next season, that’s a heck of a recognition by the industry about the importance of electric and by extension electric racing. In the end, people want to see good racing. I think we’ve already seen it but electric racing is a draw for sure.
Q: Do you think racing fans (or sports car fans) have room in their hearts for both EV and gas-powered performance? Or is electric on its way to win that fight?
A: Will it replace other forms of racing? I don’t think so. People want to see electric car racing, they can, if they want to see convention car racing, they can, or they can do both. I think it’s a very important addition to the palate of opportunities for people who follow racing.
Q: Do you think other EV manufacturers will take notice and come up with their own spec series?
A: I wouldn’t doubt it. Other manufacturers, who are especially trying to promote their electric products — it would only make sense for them to get involved on some level.