Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

There's no I-Pace to hide - Jaguar eTrophy championship sparks into life

Published by Mr. C

Célia Martin and her Viessmann Jaguar I-Pace
Célia Martin and her Viessmann Jaguar I-PaceCredit: Jaguar Racing

At the start of this year we mentioned that we didn't have any specific plans to cover motorsport in 2018, but were open to enjoying any racing that inspired us. As it happened, very little managed to grab our attention these past twelve months. Repetitive storylines were played out on all too familiar stretches of asphalt, the results as predictable as ever.

That all could change this weekend however, when a brand new racing series has the opportunity to inject new life into an old format. The red hot Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy bursts into life on Saturday as a support race for the 2018/2019 Formula E series.

What is it about?

The sales pitch for the eTrophy is straightforward: it is simply the world's first international championship for production-based electric cars. Eleven cars will compete in the opening race on the 15th December for a 25 minute blast around the streets of Ad Diriyah.

There will be a practice session on Friday and a qualifying session ahead of the race on Saturday. Vernon Kay and Amanda Stretton will host live coverage and in the UK at least you can watch the action live on BT Sport.

Each race during the season will feature a VIP star, the first being Dare to be Different ambassador Alice Powell. Oh yeah, eTrophy is a going big on equality; Célia Martin and Katherine Legge join Powell in a field of eleven drivers.

What's not to like?

So that's the pitch, on paper it is compelling and the new championship appears to tick a lot of important boxes. Firstly, the cars are all electric, no half measure hybrids to be found here. In a world where the internal combustion engine has become synonymous as both a planet killer and a serious threat to the health of city inhabitants, the switch to cleaner power in racing is essential at this point.

A series based around the production I-Pace offers an obvious level of road relevance. The chassis are modified versions of a car you can pick up at your local showroom. They feature an added rear spoiler and various internal safety features such as a roll cage, but beyond that they are basically the same car you can park in your driveway. The effect of this should not be underestimated when it comes to convincing the general public that electric cars can be awesome too.

Additionally, because this is a spec-series, pesky aerodynamicists can't ruin the racing action with their invisible wind tunnel enhancements. Cars should be able to run close together encouraging overtaking without the need to resort to gimmicks.

So is this the future?

All said, in theory this should be the perfect championship. I find myself truly excited to see where it goes. The usual caveats apply for any new formula of course - new things tend to experience teething troubles, the series isn't matching the full Formula E calendar so will only visit nine locations in its first year, and while there was originally talk of a 20 car field, only 11 slots have been filled.

Could the whole thing turn out to be a disaster? Of course, but this is really the only story in motorsport that has captured my interest in a very long time.

Formula E is fine, but open-wheeled racing's new party trick of launching drivers into nearby buildings has me questioning if the danger is worth it (spoiler: it isn't), and I really cannot get behind the ugly Halo business (just put a proper canopy on it).

Therefore this small, untested, fresh-out-of-the-oven motorsport series is what I'm pinning my hopes on. Please don't let me down, Jaguar.

The Jaguar I-Pace race car
Credit: Jaguar Racing