On January 4 2002, Jaguar Racing revealed its third Formula 1 challenger – the R3. Covers were pulled from the car opposite the team’s Milton Keynes factory revealing a handsome machine which, according to then team principal Niki Lauda was “conceived with the aim of achieving outstanding aerodynamic efficiency”.
Leading the team on the technical front, Steve Nichols claimed that “this year, our target has been simple: to make the car go as fast as possible. That sounds obvious, and it is, but what I mean is that we’ve been more adventurous in our design philosophy this time.” Hopes were high at Jaguar. Would it all come good in ’02?
Having purchased Stewart Grand Prix from Jackie and Paul Stewart in ’99, Ford renamed the team Jaguar Racing for its debut season at the turn of the millennium. With deeper pockets than Stewart, part of Ford’s additional spending secured the services of Northern Irishman Eddie Irvine.
The deal was announced in the middle of Irvine’s almighty battle for the ’99 championship title. Although Mika Häkkinen went on to secure the drivers crown by a slender two points, Irvine was a force to be reckoned with throughout the year, taking four wins and a further five podiums in the Ferrari F399. It was these performances (with help from Michael Schumacher and Mika Salo) that secured Ferrari its first constructors’ championship since ‘83.
Perhaps the anticipation of Schumacher’s full-time return in 2000 prompted Irvine’s three-year deal with Jaguar. Nevertheless, despite high hopes, results lagged behind expectations, retirements were common and the team struggled to ninth in the constructors’ standings. Bobby Rahal took charge of the team in ’01 but although the R2 demonstrated more inherent speed than its predecessor, it also displayed greater fragility, failing to finish 11 of 17 races in Irvine’s hands. His podium finish at Monaco was one of four points-scoring outings for the team on its way to eighth on the constructors’ table.
Rahal resigned in August ’01, a decision attributed at least in part to internal friction with Lauda. The Austrian inherited the American’s role, the third change in governance in as many years. As the face of leadership changed, so too the R3 represented a distinctly different profile to its predecessor. The somewhat bulbous, awkward nose of the R2 was replaced with a lower, more slender design. As is always the case in modern Formula 1, aesthetics are purely a by-product of aerodynamic performance. Happily though, Jaguar’s revised technical approach for ‘02 also produced a pretty racing car.
Although 13 years have passed since Irvine was strapped into the R3 at the 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix, his qualifying performance remains 2.9sec quicker than Nico Rosberg’s fastest race lap this March (qualifying was wet). Schumacher’s pole lap, over a decade ago, was almost seven seconds quicker than his compatriot’s Mercedes. It is statistics like these that lend credence to F1’s newfound determination to make modern machinery the fastest ever. Having said that, the sheer pace of the R3 relative to 2015 machinery makes the opportunity to purchase and run the car, available from Heritage F1, all the more exciting.
The car pictured here was Irvine’s steer in all 17 races on the ’02 calendar. The ‘cat’ crossed the line in fourth position at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, sixth at Spa and third at Monza – its three and only points finishes that year. Much like its predecessors, the R3 did not complete sufficient races to push Jaguar Racing significantly up the constructors’ standings despite flashes of speed.
This R3 is fitted with a fresh Cosworth CK V10 and matched with Jaguar’s own seven-speed longitudinal semi-automatic gearbox. Spares, starting equipment and technical support are also available – everything you need to enter the Boss GP Series. Coincidently, the championship is currently led by this car’s younger sibling, a Jaguar R5 (the team’s last creation before Red Bull appeared on the scene).
The lead picture of this article shows Irvine exiting his pitbox, grooved tyres spinning up and a dab of opposite lock applied. Now imagine the spine-tingling V10 propelling him to the limiter and bap-bap-bapping all the way to pit exit. Owning an F1 car would be very enjoyable indeed.