Jaguar Racing has worked hard to ensure that its new Formula One car, unveiled Jan. 9, is quicker and more reliable than last year's model. "We have experienced a challenging first year in the sport," Jaguar Racing's new CEO Bobby Rahal said at...
Jaguar Racing has worked hard to ensure that its new Formula One car, unveiled Jan. 9, is quicker and more reliable than last year's model. "We have experienced a challenging first year in the sport," Jaguar Racing's new CEO Bobby Rahal said at the official launch of the new car, "but we have implemented changes that we feel are necessary to deliver our objectives. Let me state now for the record that our aim for the 2001 season is to achieve respectability. It is the key word that I'd like you to take away with you today, and which I have been using quite a bit lately."
The team's drivers, Eddie Irvine and Luciano Burti, pulled the wraps off the new Jaguar-Cosworth R2 in an event, attended by media from all over the world, at the design and engineering center for Jaguar cars at Whitley, near Coventry, 100 miles north of London.
"In seeking to improve things for the future," Rahal said, "I believe that the first step has been to confront and accept our shortcomings in our immediate past. Last year we certainly did not achieve the results we had hoped for. The oldest saying in motor racing is that to finish first, first you have to finish. And this proved to be a lesson Jaguar Racing certainly learned the hard way over the last 12 months. There are no short cuts to success in F1. The only route to victory is by hard work, commitment, relentless focus and sheer application."
Although Jaguar did not achieve the results it hoped for last season, Rahal said that he has noticed a growing fan base for the team. "I was particularly struck by the enthusiasm generated in the grandstands at (the inaugural United States Grand Prix at) Indianapolis, a place that I am somewhat familiar with!" said Rahal who raced in the Indianapolis 500 13 times and won the race in 1986.
"True, there was a sea of Ferrari flags being waved enthusiastically, but it was extremely gratifying to see Jaguar banners intermingled amongst them. I am sure that this will be a growing trend. That tells you a lot about the underlying enthusiasm for the Jaguar brand, and what it represents in the wider world of the race fan."
The new Jaguar was designed by Mark Russell, but the design staff at Jaguar Racing has undergone some major changes recently. American Steve Nichols, who has worked in F1 for 20 years for teams such as Ferrari, Jordan, Sauber and McLaren, was hired Dec. 1 to replace technical director Gary Anderson.
And late last season, Mark Handford was brought in to take the chief aerodynamicist post. Nichols and Handford arrived too late to have any serious input on the design of the R2.
"When I was invited to join Jaguar Racing," Rahal said, "I spent a lot of time in detailed discussions with Neil Ressler to figure out the best way to go forward for the whole organization. We both felt that the team needed a fundamental shift of emphasis. The tough decisions we took last December concerning some of our technical staff were the right ones."
Another decision made by Ressler was to have the 2001 specification Ford-Cosworth V10, gearbox and rear suspension ready for testing on a 2000 chassis by December 2000. The result is that the team is far more advanced than it was at this time last year," Rahal said.
Like all teams, the Jaguar design department had to face new challenges set down by the rule changes for 2001. The front-wing endplates must now be 100 mm off the ground rather than 50 mm, and this has considerably changed the aerodynamics at the front of the car. The number of elements permitted in the rear wing has been reduced. Other changes include far more severe tests for the rear roll hoop, side impacts and crash testing. The Jaguar staff also worked hard to correct several problems that afflicted last year's car.
"Much work was focused on attempting to improve the integration of the aero package as well as addressing a specific issue on the R1 -- rear instability under very hard braking," Rahal said. "We believe that we have made significant progress in this area. "The Jaguar R2 has a seven-speed gearbox rather than the six-speed used last year. This offers that advantage that the engine is operating at a higher rpm level more of the time. The rear suspension is very different from last year's car. We hope it will make a contribution to enhanced driveability. The front suspension is basically the same as last year, although it incorporates many significant detail changes."
The team's No. 1 driver, Irvine, said it is difficult to predict how the new Jaguar will compare to the other new cars. "As far as results this year," Irvine said, "it is difficult to say what we should be aiming for. We have done a good job over the winter, and we are going to improve the car between now and the first race. We then have to compare ourselves to the others.
"If everyone designs a bad car, then we look like heroes if we win races. But that would not mean we did a better job -- it is just because they messed up. It is all comparative. But the basics are there to take this team up into the big leagues. That is going to take time, but the ingredients now are there to go a lot further."
Rahal also announced that Jaguar is taking over the Paul Stewart Formula 3 team, which will now be renamed the Jaguar Racing F3 team. Over the years, the team has produced drivers such as David Coulthard, Gil de Ferran, Luciano Burti and Tomas Scheckter (who replaces Burti as test driver on the Jaguar F1 team this season.)
This season, Australia's James Courtney, 20, and Germany's Andre Lotterer, 19, will drive for the team. In addition to being a platform for future star drivers to show their talents, the F3 team also will serve to train mechanics and engineers.
The 2001 17-race Formula One World Championship, which includes the second annual SAP United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis, begins March 4 in Melbourne, Australia.