Jaguar to take it steady in second F1 season

JAGUAR RACING is out to "seek respectability" in the F1 pit lanes and has to face the reality that success may take some time to achieve, warned the team's chief executive officer Bobby Rahal at the launch of the Jaguar R2 grand prix challenger this morning (Tuesday) where communications giant AT&T was also confirmed as a new sponsor.

This deliberately understated and low-key approach contrasted dramatically with the high profile launch of last year's Jaguar R1 at the Lords' cricket ground in London after which the general conclusion was that the UK car maker was just a little too pleased with itself. This time the launch took place at Jaguar Cars' engineering centre at Whitley, near Coventry, a location which marked the occasion with suitable gravitas.

The main priority this year is to produce a consistent performance level and to furnish drivers Eddie Irvine and Luciano Burti with a machine which does not replicate the shortcomings of its troublesome predecessor.

The new car was designed by John Russell who now works in conjunction with newly appointed technical director Steve Nichols and aerodynamicist Mark Handford.

"We started thinking about the first concept and ideas last April/May," said Russell. "You identify where you think you can make advances, and then you try to second guess what the following season is going to throw at you."

"Clearly this year there are two challenges. One is to produce a competitive racing car, and the other is to produce a car to the new structural requirements. There is a significant load increase in the roll hoop behind the driver and also in the side impact structure."

"There is a fairly tough chassis penetration regulation and some dimensional changes to the car. The additional aerodynamic challenge is having the front wing end plates raised by 50mm and the reduction in the number of wing elements you can have at the rear."

As far as the transmission is concerned, a seven speed gearbox been adopted in place of the previous six-speed unit.

"The disadvantage is that there are a few more shifts, but the advantage is that you are operating at higher revs for a higher percentage of the time," explained Steve Nichols.

"In addition, the rear suspension is a bit more conventional than last year's. It has been tested on the R1B (development car) which has allowed us to do a fair bit of development before adopting it for the R2." John Russell added; "We also used cast titanium rear uprights for the first time. The front suspension is broadly similar, but there are a significant number of detail changes involved in that."

The team also hopes that the R2 will have much-improved aerodynamic stability and have high hopes for the well-tested new Cosworth CR3 V10 .

Commenting on the aerodynamics, Mark Handford noted; "the biggest thing to focus on is the integration of the package - trying to recognize that there are shortcomings with wind tunnels."

"There are efficient ways of developing shapes, but we need to keep a close eye on what happens out on the track to make sure we're optimizing the wind tunnel information, based on what the driver really wants. The biggest shift has been trying to stitch wind tunnel, race engineer and driver into a more unified package."

In that connection, Handford is optimistic that their endeavours will have successfully rectified a specific shortcoming experienced with last year's Jaguar R1.

"The car was basically sound," he explained, "but there was an issue with the underbody, which didn't really show up until the car had completed sufficient running.

"There was an aerodynamic instability; Eddie is the last of the late brakers and very sensitive to rear-end grip, and this is where we had the problem. This was identified by some track tests and we have worked hard to ensure that the R2 does not replicate the problem."

The team admits to being delighted with the progress of the new V10 engine developed by Nick Hayes and his engineering team at Cosworth Racing.

"The engine is already fairly impressive," said Nichols. "Nowadays manufacturers have to consider more than just horsepower. They must consider it more as an integrated design. That means considering things like the center of gravity, stiffness and weight - not just horsepower, torque, driveability and fuel consumption.

"Cosworth have really bought into the principle of thinking of all the aspects of the engine and how it affects all aspects of the car. It's fairly evolutionary, not a radical change, because it was already pretty good."

In addition to Tomas Scheckter's role as test driver, the team is also committed to bringing on 19-year old German Andre Lotterer and 20-year old Australian James Courtney, both of whom will drive for the Jaguar F3 team, the re-branded Stewart Racing organisation.

So Jaguar is all dressed up, race ready and has already won the first contest of the year - the battle to be first to take the wraps of its new car.

Yet Rahal counsels caution; "The oldest saying in motor racing is 'to finish first, first you've got to finish' and this proved to be a lesson Jaguar Racing certainly learned the hard way over the past 12 months. "There are no short-cuts to success in Formula 1. The only route to victory is by way of hard work, commitment, relentless focus and sheer application."

Ford is spending around 85 million pounds annually to hear this message. A disproportionate amount of money, you might think, for a company which is aiming to make around 200,000 cars in total when the new X-type sedan goes into production this year.

Not so, apparently. Ford remains adamant that it is getting excellent value for money from its Jaguar F1 operation, even though there were those who still argue that Eddie Irvine's free-wheeling image is hardly likely to strike a chord with traditional Jaguar purchasers. Which, of course, may be the whole point of employing him.

In truth, for the moment, Jaguar needs F1 desperately. In the fullness of time, Jaguar is hoping that its profile will be such that F1 will need its presence just as urgently as Ferrari's.

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