Jaguar hides an impressive seven Le Mans 24-Hour victories under its belt.
Not many people will know that – but before the British marque was producing big luxurious barges, it was busy winning on the race circuit.
The gorgeous E-Type is perhaps the most recognisable sports car to wear the Leaper badge but back in the 1950s, Jaguar was manufacturing the potent C-Type and eventually winning three subsequent Le Mans races in the iconic D-Type.
“The D-Type is the quintessential sports car,” reveals Jaguar design director Ian Callum. “I have always wanted to resurrect that racing philosophy and I think we’ve done it with the new F-Type Project 7.”
The Project 7 is the fastest production Jaguar the British marque has produced to date and the most powerful F-Type in the current line-up by a long way, but it still had to look good. Here, Ian Callum talks us through his latest project…
Talk us through the design of Project 7…“We had a fairly tight brief with this one, it had be the fastest Jaguar produced, so a lot of the bodywork and styling is dictated by aerodynamics. You'll notice design elements that are unashamedly D-Type, like the gorgeous fairing that flows from behind the driver’s seat, but much of the extra bodywork is to aid downforce.
“The car has 177 per cent more downforce then the standard road-going model and that’s thanks to the carbon front splitter, side skirts and rear wing. One of my favourite touches is the windscreen – its lower and more steeply raked than the regular F-Type, which helps aerodynamics but it also gives it that real sports car look.”
Was this the car you always really wanted the F-Type to be?“I love this car, it is definitely my kind of car, but the project came along fairly abruptly. As soon as we released the F-Type, I had it in my head that I would design a GT3 racer first. I still think Jaguar should get back into professional racing – but I'm happy they have committed to projects like this. It proves they are no longer an old stuffy brand and now it's one that creates excellent sports cars.”
There's a link between this and the D-Type; is it your favourite vintage Jag?“There is no denying it is a beautiful car and one with so much history but I absolutely love the C-Type. It has all the same characteristics as the D-Type but it is just much easier to live with. Obviously we took a lot of styling cues from the D-Type with Project 7 but that notion of everyday usability is influenced by my love of the C-Type.”
Have you had the chance to drive these historic models for ‘research purposes’? “Of course I have! I have just competed in the Mille Miglia in a D-Type and it wasn't exactly the most pleasant experience. It's so cramped and hot in those things that you just feel like you want to die after each stage. These cars have a very romantic attraction but they aren't comfortable at all.”
Despite the lack of creature comforts, is it frustrating that you can't make a proper stripped out racer like those from good old days? “You just can't anymore, not if you want to create them in any volume anyway. Cars have so much going on these days that you are fairly limited in dimensions and size.
“For example, if we wanted a car with similar dimensions to the D-Type now, we would have to downsize to a four-cylinder engine because the transmission tunnel wouldn’t be as bulky and we could reduce width. Once you’ve built in the safety features and comfort customers expect, you aren’t left with much room to play with.”
What are your thoughts on interior tech? Do you like sparse cabins with touch-screens and whatnot?“Not really, I think a proper sports car should have a lot of buttons and switches inside, that’s why we spent so long designing the switchgear in the F-Type.
"We could have gone down the route of flat screens and sparse interiors but we wanted to have a tactile approach to the cockpit. Old racers always had plenty of buttons and switches for practical reasons and this car is no different. If the driver were fiddling with a touch screen, they'd crash. This is a performance car so everything should be within easy reach.”