Jaguar: From Bond cars to electric racers

Story highlights

  • Jaguar returns to motorsport joining the Formula E Championship
  • The UK-based luxury car brand will race in the 2016/2017 season
  • "We firmly believe electrification is the future," says engineering boss

(CNN)Jaguar is swapping the big screen for electric dreams after the luxury maker of James Bond cars announced it is entering the global electric car racing series Formula E in 2016.

The UK-based automotive company will return to racing as a manufacturer more than a decade after quitting Formula One in 2004.
Jaguar Land Rover simultaneously confirmed it also plans to launch its first range of electric vehicles and, with that in mind, it will roll onto the Formula E grid for the 2016-17 season.
    "We're excited that Jaguar is returning to racing but we're doing it in a modern way," Nick Rogers, Jaguar's Group Engineering Director, told CNN at a media launch in December on the 35th floor of London's The Shard landmark.
    "We're in a changing world, a carbon-conscious world and Formula E is a perfect fit because we firmly believe electrification is the future."
    Jaguar quit F1 in 2004 after five seasons and two podium places. Its American parent company Ford Motors sold the team to energy drinks company Red Bull, which went on to drive the team to four straight world championships with Sebastian Vettel at the helm.
    Jaguar's biggest motorsport success has come in the Le Mans 24-Hour endurance race which it has won five times, its last victory in 1957 with its D-Type.
    "We've been looking at a return to motorsport for Jaguar for a period of time but it had to work with our strategy," Jaguar's Formula E team director James Barclay explained to CNN.
    "Choosing Formula E is absolutely right for what we have planned as a manufacturer with EV (electric vehicle) technology, so for us the fit was perfect.
    "We really love the ideas the championship has, being in the heart of cities like London and bringing racing to the fans, that is incredibly appealing to us.
    "F1 was a key program for the brand at the time and had some highs and lows but we're looking forward.
    "We are really pleased to bring Jaguar back into motorsport, into what we believe is an innovative and exciting championship, where we can showcase new technology."
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    The luxury car brand, now owned by Indian manufacturer Tata Motors, may have ruled out a return to F1 but it will rely upon the racing expertise of the Williams F1 team.
    "From a race operations point of view, having an experienced team like Williams competing at the highest level of motorsport is really important," Jaguar team director James Barclay told CNN. "It will build a strong foundation for the team."
    Williams Advanced Engineering will work with the Jaguar Formula E team as its technical partner and it will neighbor the F1 team's headquarters in Grove, Oxfordshire.
    "The focus of development and innovation is on the powertrain, the motor, the gearbox, the inverter and the battery," added Barclay. "All the Formula E teams run with the same chassis and aerodynamics."
    Jaguar's partnership with Williams is already a proven hit on the big stage or, more accurately, the big screen.
    Williams gave the Jaguar C-X75 supercar an aerodynamic upgrade, which would make 'Q' proud, for its starring role in a moonlit car chase in the new Bond film Spectre.
    Now, the two companies are partnering again as Jaguar is intent on providing a thrilling chase in Season Three of Formula E.
    The Jaguar Formula E team will begin testing in January with announcements on driver lineup and car livery to come in the spring.
    "It's amazing to see the level of talent in the championship," said Barclay, who said he would seek advice from Williams when it came to driver choice.
    "We'll be looking to get the best drivers that we can for the team. Success is on our mind and the process has now started to see who would be the best to get us success on track. "
    Jaguar joins major car manufacturers Renault, Audi and Citroen in the electric revolution and another big manufacturer is expected to come on board as a team partner in the New Year.
    Jaguar grabbed a spot on the grid after the Trulli team, founded by former F1 race winner Jarno Trulli, announced it has dropped out of the electric racing series with immediate effect.
    The team's departure means that there will be only nine teams and 18 drivers competing for the rest of the 2015-2016 championship.
    The Formula E grid is limited to 10 teams and 20 drivers and, despite the growing clamor to join the electric series, there are no plans to expand racing's electrical grid yet.
    A season in F1 is estimated to cost at least $44m -- and that's for the smallest teams -- while the budget for Formula E is officially capped at $3.5m.