A Moment in Time - Jaguar Takes to the F1 Track
By Michael and Jenny Tracey
The Cat's Whiskers; Journal of the Jaguar Driver's Club of Canberra Inc and this article are copyright. Apart from any fair dealings for the purposes of study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced by any means without permission. Enquires should be made to the Publisher or Author.
Tracey, M., and Tracey, J., 2000, 'A Moment in Time - Jaguar Takes to the F1 Track', The Cat's Whiskers; Journal of the Jaguar Driver's Club of Canberra Inc., John Beale (ed), pp 25-28.
A Moment in Time - Jaguar Takes to the F1 Track
Another milestone in Jaguar history occurred on 12th March 2000 in Melbourne with the first time the marque appeared in Formula 1 Grand Prix competition. Life is a system of give and take and the arrival of Jaguar in F1 confirmed the demise of Stewart Racing. Anticipation of the entry of the Jaguar marque on the track helps put to rest the historical passing of Jackie Stewart and the Stewart team. However, it was heartening to see the old war horse Stewart in the Jaguar pits. It would have been great to know what was going through his mind as the two F1 Jaguar R1s were being groomed for their first public appearance.
'The Murray Walker Fan Club' ....The two of us!
Jaguar is no newcomer to motor sport. It is well known that the marque dominated Le Mans for many years and many other Jaguars were driven to fame in lesser-known events.
The moment arrived when the Cats had sharpened their claws in practice at Silverstone and Spain. Practice was over, they now sat ready to pounce in the exit of pit lane. Irishman Eddy Irvine remained cool and poised and for a moment, the CR2 Jaguar built Cosworth engine crackled with a very rough and constrained note. Then followed an explosion of sound that taxed the best earplugs on the circuit. The R1 punched itself a hole in the very warm Melbourne air. Jaguar had written a new chapter in its proud history and it is exciting that the motoring world will record that the Cat's first tentative steps in F1 were taken in Australia.
Irvine blasting out of the pit lane for the first time in Melbourne 2000.
This exciting, historical moment was not to be supported by a podium place or any place for that matter. Johnny Herbert was first to retire with technical problems and Irvine was just unlucky. As he tried to avoid an incident with one of the Walkinshaw owned Orange sponsored Arrows cars, the Jaguar was forced off the track and stalled. The British racing green flags with the pouncing orange jaguar slumped to half-mast. The sea of red and yellow flags with that other animal, the black show pony, carried Michael Schumacher to the first F1 victory of the new millennium. The resplendent green Cats were stealthfully transported from the track to the pits to lick their wounds. Brazil was awaited with controlled expectation as thousands of red and yellow flags claimed the Melbourne circuit.
It is often hard to be enthused with a sporting event that starts at 2:55 AM EST. The Brazilian Grand Prix at the Interlagos circuit took the green Cats back near the land of their namesakes. Throughout time in this country the jaguar was worshiped as a god. Jaguar Racing had done its homework and the down-heartened feeling of that sea of red flags in Melbourne disappeared as the Jaguar took 6th and 17th places on the gird. With the usual foe pars from Murray Walker the race was on. As the green Jaguars appeared, Ferrari and the long lost relative of the R1’s, McLaren, engaged in their now familiar duel. During practice Irvine achieved a welcomed 6th place on the grid and was a fraction of a second off the pace. Johnny Herbert, however, sat in 17th place. Perhaps there was a tactical purpose in his taking that position. What cars could the Jaguar pass? Remember in ‘Ben Hur’ in the chariot race how the fast horse in the team was let have its head and the tried and experienced horse controlled the race. However, the long worshiped god, the one on wheels and the sleek beast from the jungles of South America, was not to have its day in Brazil. Eddie Irvine was running in 5th place after overtaking Fisichella in the early laps of the race with only Ferrari and McLaren in front of him when he was forced to retire. The now familiar and repetitive flurry of red flags covered the circuit. However, this time, the R1s had their first real run and before retiring they achieved valuable racing laps.
Herbert retired with mechanical problems after making up valuable places during the race and proving the handling capabilities of the R1. Irvine may have fallen on his own sword. Several times during the telecast the car was seen to lock-up on braking. On a circuit with a temperature of 32 degrees Celsius this would have scrubbed tyres. By his own admission Irvine pushed the R1 too far and lost the plot as he spun into a safety barrier. The R1 lost grip and control was out of the race with the front right hand suspension destroyed.
During the first practice sessions at Imola for San Marino Grand Prix the Jaguars performed well and the following results were posted:
PosDriverTeam Time1.M.SchumacherFerrari 1:27.2702.Coulthard McLaren Mercedes1:27.478+0:00.2083.IrvineJaguar Ford1:28.566+0:01.296
Johnny Herbert had the second Jaguar in 19th place with a time of 1:30.896. However, by the second practice the roles had been reversed and Herbert took 7th fastest while Irvine slipped back to 12th and was off the pace with a time of 1-28-556.
PosDriverTeamTime1.M.Schumacher Ferrari 1:26.9442. BarrichelloFerrari 1:27.317 + 0:00.3733.Coulthard McLaren Mercedes1:27.372+0:00.4284.Frentzen Jordan Mugen-Honda 1:27.730+0:00.7865.Trulli Jordan Mugen-Honda 1:27.795+0:00.8516.HakkinenMcLaren Mercedes1:28.021+0:01.0777.Herbert Jaguar Ford 1:28.139+0:01.195 While the recorded times were great and he Jaguars were mixing it with the 'big boys', the reliability problem had to be addressed.
The full cycle of this historical motoring event came to fruition at San Marino. Following good practice times Irvine attained 7th place and Herbert finished 10th on provisional placing. For the first time the Cats clawed the Grand Prix circuits of the world and finished a race with dignity. We have seen the Jaguar’s first start in Melbourne and first finish in San Marino and a hint of what is to come as Jaguar Racing writes a new chapter in its motoring history.
We will also wait to see what happens with Irvine. This Irishman can be a bit of wildcard. His taste of potential victory as the replacement driver for Schumacher last year may have bolstered an ego that is greater than his ability. The end of the year may see that the determination, experience and controlled driving of Herbert will see Jaguar on the podium or taking some points in the constructor's championship. This year the developed teams may not have to worry. McLaren, Ferrari and Jordan are clearly in an advanced stage of improvement with their 2000 cars and drivers. However, it goes with out saying that the other F1 teams must be aware that Jaguar is sharpening its claws. With the ‘hothead Irishman’ at one end, the ‘stiff upper lip gentleman’ at the other, and the two Jaguar R1s in the middle, we will see a few red flags driven over at Melbourne next year.
Perhaps one may also dream of the ‘Purrrr fect F1 team’. The green R2’s with a solid and definable management team headed by Ron Denis, Jaguar’s own wind tunnel, Alan Prost as race tactician, Scotsman, David Coulthard in the first R2 Jaguar emblazoned with the prized ‘1’, Mark Webber in the second car and Michael Schumacher in green racing gear as test driver in the ‘T’ Cat.
Whatever happens during the 2000 F1 season, an historical moment no one can take away is the day our 1971 XJ6 Series 1’s young relatives first bared their claws in Melbourne. Sir William would have approved.
The author and a Young Mark Webber - Why didn't Jaguar start its F1 campaign with this man?