Opinion: In a world of outdated motorsport, unlikely early adopter Jaguar is set to reap the rewards.
Since taking its most recent Le Mans 24 Hours victory in 1990, Jaguar has struggled to find success in motorsport. Failed GT projects, a miserable five years in Formula One and a disappointing first season in Formula E are significant bookmarks in a torrid 21st century racing resume.
But to the latter point, even if their first season didn't go to plan, Jaguar were still the first prestige manufacturer to pull the Formula E trigger. Making that move before BMW, Mercedes and Porsche is almost certainly going to pay dividends; as the other manufacturers go through the teething problems Jaguar have already fought through, the big cat emblazoned cars will likely be further up the grid.
At this week's Frankfurt Motor Show, Jaguar highlighted its continued commitment to Formula E with the reveal of the I-Pace eTrophy. The eTrophy will be the first ever full-time support series for Formula E, and the first single-make international championship for electric cars. It is set to debut alongside Formula E's 2018-2019 season.
Since the I-Pace eTrophy was on the cards for some time - supposedly before Jaguar's Formula E car made its race debut - it's safe to say that Jaguar has proven itself to be at least a little ahead of the curve with this concept.
Furthermore, while the rest of motorsport is struggling to implement the so called 'future technologies' that are now very much on the present, Coventry's own have taken it all onboard fully. Jaguar, alongside the organisers of Formula E, has set up its racing future better than any other manufacturer or organisation on the planet.
As an example of just how lateral Jaguar's approach to the sport is compared to the majority, just look at the GTE and GT3 categories, which play host to almost every manufacturer that wants to take its supercars to the track. While the success of those categories in the short term is practically guaranteed, there's also a worrying lack of manoeuvre for manufacturers that want to showcase their new-gen performance technology. All-wheel-drive, electric motors and active aero have no place in current GT racing. That fact becomes all the more strange when you look at practically every hypercar of the 2010's, and realise that there's currently no scope for them to go racing due to the close-minded approach to the innovations they house.
Currently, you can watch a GT race featuring a petrol only, rear-drive version of Honda's NSX. That might seem like a good thing if you don't like the direction motoring is going down, but ultimately, resistance will prove futile.
Why is there nowhere for BMW to race the i8? How is a car as spectacular as the Mercedes-AMG Project One being born into a world with nowhere for it to race?
Frankly, it's because motorsport has lost its way. The former grand pantheon of motoring innovation is now actively dating itself by not adapting to shifting trends in the wider motor industry.
And, funnily enough, those who snubbed putting the engine behind the driver in Formula One in the late 50's, and scoffed at the thought of wings on race cars ten years later, found themselves far behind the curve when they eventually cottoned on.
Even in Formula One, where hybrid systems were introduced as far back as 2009, such technology is potentially going to be outlawed by the sport ahead of the 2021 season. That's an objective step backwards.
Jaguar, on the other hand, has invested heavily in Formula E, and if you look at the names following suit, you'd have to suggest that they're betting on the winning horse. With the addition of the eTrophy, Jaguar will learn about preparing GT and Touring Car-style machinery powered by electric motors, which will benefit its road and track projects for many years to come.
All of this not only represents foresight, but also a potential changing of the guard for motorsport as a whole; Jaguar has put itself in the pound seat to lead motorsport's biggest evolution since someone realised that inverted aeroplane wings might make race cars go around corners faster.