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We didn't just drive the Jaguar I-PACE up North on a single charge, we went for a few laps around Sepang Circuit, too, and this is what we learnt.

12 Mar 2019


Quite recently, we drove an all-electric Jaguar I-PACE successfully to Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia, on a single charge alone, which was already a pretty big success in itself. However, that wasn't the only activity that Wearnes Automotive Singapore had planned to show just how sharp the I-PACE's claws are.

We didn't just drive the Jaguar I-PACE to KL on one single charge, we went for a spin around Malaysia's Sepang International Circuit, too
With a fully juiced-up I-PACE, we headed to the Sepang International Circuit - a proving ground for cars and drivers alike - the next morning to experience how this hunky electric SUV performs on the track.

Bringing an I-PACE to Sepang might sound like a shocking idea, but it (and the Jaguar brand) is no stranger to racing. In fact, it's already the star of the Jaguar I-PACE eTrophy, a supporting one-make race series for Formula E, which features 20 I-PACE race cars honed for track duties by Jaguar Special Vehicle Operations.

But first, a fast-paced taxi ride

And of course, the best way to be introduced to the long and fast Sepang circuit is to be taken on an introduction lap with someone who was already all too familiar with the car - Simon Evans.

Although the eTrophy series is new, the Kiwi has already won its inaugural race in Saudi Arabia, racing for Team Asia New Zealand. As such, there was no better person to us for a quick taxi ride around the 5.54km circuit.

Simon Evans drives for Team Asia New Zealand in the Jaguar I-PACE eTrophy race series, and has clinched first position in the Saudi Arabia season opener
According to Simon, the road-going I-PACE is pretty similar to the race-prepared I-PACE that he drives. The main differences with the eTrophy car are better brakes, firmer suspension, as well as a roll cage to meet FIA standards for racing.

Hence, there wasn't much holding back Simon from doing a pretty rapid lap around Sepang with us riding shotgun. And although Simon gave the car a good shakedown, it was the first time we went around Sepang in near complete silence.

While the I-PACE's instantaneous electric torque does push you back into your seat the way a race car should, there isn't the supporting symphony from an engine or exhaust; just silence, with the occasional tyre noises under hard cornering.

Luckily for Simon, the lack of sounds doesn't bother him. "The sounds usually fade into the background anyway, especially when you're completely focused on the race," he said.

One silent lap

At the end of the taxi lap, we were then given the chance to get behind the wheel of the I-PACE for a quick lap. After a good eight or so hours of very careful throttle control all the way up to KL the day before, it was nice to have an opportunity to go flat out in the I-PACE on Sepang.

Even if you enter a corner too slowly, its 696Nm of instant torque means you can easily gain speed out
Pulling out of the South Paddock, we were immediately faced with Turn 15, the last corner leading to the front straight. Despite the short distance from the pit exit to the corner, the immense torque of the I-PACE meant you still could accelerate hard out of Turn 15 and carry a very reasonable amount of speed through the main straight.

And carry speed we did; we were inching towards its top speed of 200km/h, before letting off and going hard on the brakes for Turn 1.

What's more surprising is that going through corners was a rather graceful affair for this biggish SUV, with its floor-mounted batteries acting as a ballast offering near 50:50 weight distribution, and comfort-oriented air suspension turning spine-shattering corner kerbs into graceful bumps that you could just glide through.

This allowed us to tackle Sepang's corners with the sort of verve and spirit seldom seen in this segment of cars.

Still, for something with this much instant torque and unexpected agility, the silence remains the coolest (read: novel) part. As we're used to burly engines and screaming exhausts when pushing a car around Sepang, the lack of an audible roar somewhat removes the sense of speed. It almost felt like I was playing Gran Turismo with the volume turned off.

Is this the future?

The possibility of seeing electric cars compete on a more grassroots level is certainly possible once fast chargers are more prevalent
Of course, even today, there are certain concerns when considering an electric car, like charging speed and range, especially when using one for motorsport. But with improvements in battery technology, even the batteries in the current Gen 2 Formula E cars can last the entirety of the intense 45-minute race. Previously, the drivers had to swop cars when the first one's batteries went dead.

From the looks of things, there really isn't much stopping the development in electric vehicles and electric car racing.

Even with these few laps with the I-PACE, it further proves that electric track days on a more grassroots level is certainly possible. All we need now is more interest, involvement and a fast charger at Sepang.

And if you were wondering if Simon has any range anxiety while racing in the I-PACE eTrophy, the 28-year old said he doesn't, and that neither should any other car buyer who's just getting from home to office and back.
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