GRR

First Drive: Jaguar iPace eTrophy

16th October 2018
Goodwood Road & Racing

Jaguar has been fighting for Formula E victories since 2016, but when season five starts this December, there’s one championship it definitely will win: the Jaguar iPace eTrophy. Based on Jaguar’s all-electric iPace SUV, it’s the world’s first one-make race-series for production cars, and will support ten of Formula E’s 13 rounds.

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We’re getting a steer on Silverstone’s Stowe circuit, to see what the 20 or so drivers – including Brit Katherine Legge – have in store.

A season costs £450k, plus £200k to buy or £95k to lease a car. Either way, all cars are run by M-Sport, and start life at Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations. The road car’s 90kW lithium-ion battery is retained, as are its twin electric motors, one at each axle for all-wheel drive. Like the road car, that means 406PS (400bhp) and 700Nm (516lb ft), 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and a 124mph top end.

The chassis is lowered 30mm on Ohlins suspension and gets new front uprights and control arms derived from the mad-cap XE Project 8. Bushings are also removed for more responsive handling. AP Racing four-piston brakes replace standard stoppers, and all cars run 22-inch Michelin tyres good for a full race weekend in all conditions. Save for tweaking ABS, brake bias and levels of re-gen, the set-up is fixed, and drivers do no battery management – the better for close, hard racing.

The iPace certainly looks purposeful with its wheelarch extensions and more aggressive carbonfibre bumpers and bonnet that cover a wider track and increase cooling. The rear wing is functional, though designer Wayne Burgess admits that aesthetics are more important at street-circuit speeds.

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Climb in and you’re surrounded by an FIA touring-car spec rollcage and the mouth-drying seriousness of a stripped-bare racecar cockpit – only the stop/start button and transmission controls are familiar.

On track, wind noise, loud squeaks from the brakes and a subtle whir from the electric motors fills a vacuum of noise. Perhaps the relative silence, the absence of gears to shift and an empty racetrack contribute, but the eTrophy does not feel particularly quick, certainly no faster than the road car – strange given it is 225kg lighter at a still hefty 1,965kg. Rather speed builds progressively, perhaps deceptively so, until you zoom in to a braking zone and suddenly that context provides speed, drama and a test of nerve.

Braking performance is very strong, especially given the two tonnes of metal the APs must slow. The stopping power is not the work of discs and pads alone, because the iPace could not complete the 25-minute races without regenerative braking. So it’s impressive that the transition between regenerative and normal braking is so seamless, the pedal pressure so natural to modulate. With road tyres, there is ABS intervention to manage, however, which can make placing the car on corner-entry less precise.

Through slower corners you notice more body roll than a normal racecar, and steering that’s quick and responsive but markedly light. You’re also very aware that the eTrophy wants to understeer – our car’s torque split is set at 48/52 front-to-rear, not the default 50/50  – and measuring out exactly how much throttle to add is a fine art. Too little gas and the corner-speed feels pedestrian; a fraction too much and you’re punished with wheelspin.

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Through Stowe’s fast right-left flick, the iPace is most enjoyable – it controls its mass well under braking, and the speed and body roll lets you manipulate weight transfer to adjust the cornering attitude. Where the iPace stuttered at lower speeds, now it flows, but all through the lap you’re reminded how crucial it is to maintain momentum, and how carefully you have to finesse the iPace to set the best lap time.

Alone on track, you do crave more drama – more noise, more speed, and a sharper chassis too. But we’d expect iPace eTrophy races to be high on spectator entertainment, with as many as 20 evenly matched cars fighting on street circuits with little margin for error. Driver Simon Evans thinks so: ‘The racing is going to be super-close – the top cars will probably be separated by hundredths of a second.’

Let’s hope so. We’ll be watching how it all plays out this December.

Stat Attack

Price: £200,000 for the car, £450,000 for a season

Drivetrain: Twin permanent magnet electric motors

PS/NM: 406/700

Kerbwieght: 1,965kg

0-62 MPH: 4.5sec

TOP SPEED: 124mph

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  • Jaguar iPace eTrophy

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