Jaguar race on home soil for the first time in 17 years this weekend – but insist they are here for trophies and not nostalgia.
The British manufacturer takes part in Formula E’s London E-Prix at the ExCeL Centre, their first UK event since Mark Webber secured eighth in the 2004 F1 Silverstone race.
But it is title tilts on the mind of staff at Jag, with hometown hero Sam Bird heading into the weekend on top of the drivers’ championship. As a team, they are only five points off the top of the constructors’ table.
The London weekend, which sees races taking place on both Saturday and Sunday, is the penultimate event of the season and will prove pivotal to who takes over the silverware.
Team director James Barclay said: “Formula E is an incredibly close and competitive championship.
“The quality of the teams, drivers and manufacturers in this championship is second to none.
“It is without doubt that the championship will be decided in the last race of the season, so it is fantastic to have Sam, our British driver, coming into London leading the championship.”
There was a stunned reaction when Bird announced that he was leaving Virgin in favour of Jaguar at the end of last season, but the deal made sense for all sides.
“It is not just the British thing, but we also enjoy his never-say-never attitude,” Barclay said.
“He is a racer, he wants to make those overtakes, he is hungry and each year as it went on, we thought on both sides that we would be a really good fit together.
“We love his attitude in racing and he has seen us progress year-on-year as a team and can see what we are capable of from a team point of view and an engineering point of view.
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“Good drivers have good contracts and you have to find the right opportunity and the right moments but when that right time came it was really exciting for both of us and a pretty straightforward conversation.
“We have had Mitch who has been a fantastic driver for us since we returned to the sport in season three and Mitch has been really successful for us, but we have struggled to find a driver to be alongside Mitch who can really perform at the same level and Sam was that perfect fit, so it is great that we can finally take up that conversation in the last few years to come together.
“He is incredibly motivated, incredibly focused and in both Sam and Mitch, we have two drivers who are absolutely on top of their game. They qualify incredibly well, they race incredibly well.”
The excitement of being on home soil will soon turn into apprehension at the world’s first indoor-outdoor circuit which the race is taking place on, presenting never-seen-before dilemmas for drivers.
Barclay said: “It is typically Formula E, which is about challenging us. It is not about having the most perfect circuit.
“Part of the challenge of Formula E is having to race on city centre circuits. What would have been a bus stop yesterday is now a braking zone for a high-speed corner.
“It feels really special. We are a proud British manufacturer, we employ most of our staff here in the United Kingdom and we have a really long and illustrious history in the sport.
“There have been many great moments for Jaguar racing on home soil so it is a wonderful moment as a team to fly the flag.”
- Formula E’s Heineken London E-Prix is being shown free-to-air live on Channel 4 on both Saturday and Sunday.