Jaguar’s I-PACE eTROPHY has become the first casualty to the coronavirus lockdown, as the manufacturer announced today it would be ending the series after two seasons, not continuing into Season 7.
The series was announced during Season 4 and, by being part of the Formula E paddock and using the same circuits, attracted a lot of interest. Although it was a fully spec series, using race-adapted versions of the all-electric road I-Pace, teams were allowed to enter and it particularly appealed to nationally-based efforts, including oil state and Formula E host Saudi Arabia, with Jaguar providing the support and engineering.
Its first title was won by Sergio Jimenez after a competitive rivalry with fellow Brazilian stock car driver Caca Bueno and despite (not unjustified) cynicism before the first race, the SUVs worked surprisingly well on Formula E’s tight street circuits, with the short races providing some really entertaining battles, as well as an opportunity to showcase some firsts in the Formula E paddock.
Katherine Legge won in Mexico last season for Rahul Letterman Lanigan Racing and became the first woman to win an all electric race, British F4 driver Reema Juffali became the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in an international motorsport series in her own country at the first rounds in Riyadh last year and Takuma Aoki became the first disabled driver to compete in an international all-electric race in Mexico this February.
Although the I-Paces used for racing were heavily adapted from the road cars for safety and drivability (including moving the entire powertrain to the rear of the car and fully replaced suspension and brakes) Jaguar took direct development from the series. A statement from the team today says that included a software update issued to I-Pace owners in December last year that increased real-world range on the car by 20km
The series never reached a full grid, despite interest from teams and drivers, possibly because its status as Formula E’s support category – and consequent logistical requirements, as well as Jaguar’s engineering support – made the costs fairly eye-watering for comparatively short races.
Numbers have varied from the initially-announced fees but a season could set you back in the region of £750,000 – although that is pretty small change for a fully broadcast motorsport series across several continents and against professional competitors.
In a statement from the team today, in which Jaguar reinforced their commitment to remaining in Formula E, team principal James Barclay said –
“Over the last two seasons, the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY has produced some incredible racing around the world and has been a valuable addition to the Formula E schedule. Along with our valued entrants and series partners, we are proud of having created a true world-first with the I-PACE eTROPHY.
“Together we have pioneered battery electric vehicle racing. We would like to thank them for joining us on this journey and turning the vision into reality, helping show the industry what is possible in terms of electrification in motorsport.
“The series has realised many of the targets we set out to achieve. However, during these unprecedented times of the coronavirus pandemic, we have reviewed our strategy and made the decision to withdraw the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY series after two successful seasons.
“We remain fully committed to electric motorsport and our Jaguar Racing Formula E programme as an important part of our transition to electric mobility and Destination Zero. I’m looking forward to the Formula E and eTROPHY seasons resuming if and when it is safe for our team, partners and fans to do so.”
Inside Electric spoke to Barclay last week, about whether manufacturers can continue to justify motorsport expenditure following major economic impact to, in particular, the automotive sector over the lockdown period. He remained hopeful that Formula E has clear future benefits, both for manufacturers and as a relevant series to the world beyond coronavirus but that the series’ and teams’ commitment to cost control was crucial to that –
“The challenges that COVID-19 presents are very real, there’s a lot of discussion, particularly in other categories of motorsport but it’s a real challenge in Formula E as well and it needs addressing and that’s what Formula E and the teams and the FIA are doing.
“The fortunate thing is that Formula E has some really critical benefits [for a manufacturer] – it is much more cost-effective than other categories of the sport, which does help compared to some of the other categories where the investment is much higher, that’s much more difficult in challenging times like this. The approach to Formula E, at times like this, remains very important – it’s always about value for money, the costs to the benefits and as soon as that’s out of kilter you’re in a tricky situation.
“We all continue to talk about this, about how teams and Formula E and the FIA work together. We have a constant dialogue about managing exactly that, about managing it so that it can deal with head winds and I think now, more critically than ever, it’s good we’ve been working that way since the start.
“So, that’s the first thing and then the other thing that is really critical is that we are racing electric cars and that clearly is the future – so what Formula E represents the future of mobility. Now more than ever, that’s becoming more important – I think off the back of what we see with COVID-19 there’s probably going to be even sense of importance on environment and sustainability, people have spent more time with their families at home valuing the world around them a lot more.
“The appreciation people have off the back of this will make people more invested than ever in things like clean air in cities and all the topics Formula E stands for. So I think now more than ever Formula E is incredibly relevant to the future, if not more so than it was pre-COVID.
“But we have to make sure we manage it carefully – like anything, it’s a living thing and you’ve got to take care of it and look after it to make it prosper.”