In signing up for Jaguar’s Formula E race team, Kiwi Mitch Evans is also helping drive the brand’s road car programme.
FORMER New Zealand Grand Prix winner, international GP3 champion and now chasing an electric dream that, who knows, might also lead to future Jaguar or Land Rover wares having a ‘Mitch’ mode.
Even if that specific performance feature doesn’t come into being, there’s no doubt that the Evans effect will inevitably transfer in some form into the conjoined British icon brands’ showroom fare.
In the wake of the new Panasonic Jaguar Racing Formula E team having signed up young Kiwi motor-racer Mitch Evans as one of its drivers, Jaguar Land Rover has expressed that the impetus for giving the green light to the ‘I-Type’ single-seater was to promote its determination to become a provider of performance-focused electric cars, on road and off.
Company engineering boss Nick Rogers has assured that the motorsport effort will kick-start a while new product offensive centred around electrification.
“The race team is a key part of our product development and will have full access to all of our engineering and test facilities,” Rogers said at the team’s launch.
Rogers’ confirmation that it won’t be long before we see a direct link from the technology seen on the race car to Jaguars and Land Rovers the road synchs with a report just run by top weekly, Britain’s Autocar magazine, that Jaguar is set to launch an all-electric compact crossover by 2018.
The programme doesn’t stop there. JLR is also already well into testing plug-in diesel/electric hybrids. Disguised examples have reportedly been seen testing near its engineering base in the Midlands.
However, there’s no doubt that the fully-electric Jaguar – which some surmise will be called E-Pace - is going to be the flagship JLR product, even though sister brand Range Rover is also expected to have a battery-powered vehicle in production within three years.
There’s a link between those vehicles; Autocar reckons the E-Pace is based on the all-wheel-drive Jaguar Land Rover EV platform unveiled a year ago, back then as a version of Range Rovers baby, the Evoque.
Though that the E-Pace is going to be slightly smaller than its new F-Pace SUV, and sporting a lower roofline and even more dramatic styling, gells with thought that it has DNA link to the Evoque-e.
The emphasis with the E-Pace project is expected to be on showing how electric drive can deliver serious performance and impressive handling as well as exceptional refinement.
JLR has yet to announce who its battery partner will be for its electric vehicle programme yet, with Panasonic named as the race team’s title sponsor, it seems likely that the Japanese firm is already in discussions about a collaboration beyond the track, especially on battery technology.
Jaguar won’t reveal the cost of its Formula E programme, but Rogers has told UK media he felt it was good value.
“It’s not an obscene amount of money and it is money we’re spending on technical development otherwise. It’s also inspiring a new generation of engineers within JLR.”
For his part, Evans has said he is delighted to be driving for Jaguar in its return to racing. The 22-year-old Aucklander, who has been competing overseas since his NZ racing career culminated with a magnificent NZGP victory at Manfeild in 2011 (topping off back-to-back Toyota Racing Series' title), will have Irishman Adam Carroll as his team-mate, with Chinese-Dutch driver Ho-Pin Tung as reserve.
Evans move into electric racing comes as he winds up another frustrating season in GP2, the feeder series and support category to Formula One.
The Formula E championship, also FIA-sanctioned and involving three other car brands – Audi, Citroen and Renault - is over 14 rounds at 12 international venues (the closest to NZ being the season-opening Hong Kong eGP on October 9) and could be a huge profile life for the 2013 GP3 champion.
"Some of history's most iconic cars have been developed by Jaguar, and I'm thrilled to be part of Jaguar's electric future and our return to motorsport," said Evans, who took part in two pre-season tests and was quicker than Carroll on both occasions.
"Formula E is a real drivers' championship with some of the most competitive racing in the world.
"Any of the drivers will tell you how challenging it is to find the limit in a Formula E car and gain those extra tenths and I'm looking forward to the season ahead.”