Laudas Goal Simple Improve

MILTON KEYNES, Great Britain - Jaguar Racing's boss Niki Lauda says the goal for the team this season is simple: "We want to be better than last year," he said at the launch of the new Jaguar Cosworth R3 next door to the team's factory in Milton Keynes, England.

"We hope to move forward," Lauda said. "Last year was certainly not what we wanted to achieve. The R3 is a brand new car, and we hope to improve the speed of the car, the performance of the car and move forward."

Last year, Jaguar finished eighth in the Constructors Championship. The 2001 R2 was overweight and one of its biggest drawbacks was that it didn't perform well in qualifying. The design team, headed by technical director Steve Nichols, chief designer John Nichols and chief aerodynamicist Mark Handford, has taken steps to change all that.

"Our design team put a lot of thought into how to improve the R3 compared to the R2," Lauda said. "The weight was a problem on the car last year; the aerodynamics were a problem, and all those issues were addressed, and this car is much better in most areas. We will find out how much better when we go testing next week in Barcelona."

One of the biggest handicaps Jaguar has faced over the last two seasons, as did Stewart Ford, which became Jaguar, has been the lack of its own wind tunnel. Most of the wind tunnel development work was done in the Swift wind tunnel in Los Angeles, which meant a 12-hour flight each way for the engineers and all sorts of logistical problems. Jaguar also rented time in a wind tunnel in South Hampton in England. Compared to teams like McLaren, Ferrari and Renault, who have their own wind tunnels going nearly 24 hours a day every day, Jaguar was at a real disadvantage. That will all change now that Jaguar's exclusive new wind tunnel will be in operation in February. Located in Bicester, near the Silverstone circuit, the new tunnel is just a few minutes drive away from the Jaguar factory.

"One of our biggest handicaps was that we didn't have our own tunnel," Lauda said. "Once the new tunnel in Bicester in calibrated in February, we can really work like all the other teams. That is essential."

One reason Jaguar got its new car up and running as soon as possible was because the lack of wind tunnel time.

"With our new wind tunnel at not available until February and the Swift tunnel so far away in California," said a team insider, "it was reasoned that the quicker we got out on the track the better it would be for the program." The new car is lighter than last year's car. Although the R2 was built also under the weight limit (car and driver must weigh in at least 600 kilos, 1320 pounds), the R3 is even further under that limit. This allows more scope in setting up the car, as there is more ballast to move around. The new car also has a lower center of gravity compared to the R2."

"The R3 is significantly lighter than R2," Lauda confirmed. "Aerodynamically, R3 will generate more downforce than R2 and exhibit improved sensitivity characteristics." The new car will be powered by a Cosworth V10 that is an updated version of the unit used at the end of last season. An all-new engine should be ready by May.

Eddie Irvine is back with Jaguar for a third season while Pedro de la Rosa, who moved up from test driver to a race seat last May, starts his first full season with the team. Irvine, who says he is in the best physical shape ever, is in the last of a three-year contract with Jaguar. De la Rosa, who got married during the off-season, can't wait to go racing again. With the testing ban in effect from mid October last year until the first week of January 2002, all F-1 drivers have had a long break.

"I am very excited about my first full season with Jaguar Racing," de la Rosa said. "I can't wait to get into the new car. My ambition is to improve on last year."

While Lauda says that Jaguar Racing is aiming for fifth place in the Constructors Championship, Irvine was more downbeat. "It is difficult to say what we expect," Irvine said. "It depends on what that the other teams have done over the winter. It is going to be interesting to see what the new R3 is like as it is a big step forward from the R2. We have a lot of developments coming, so it is gong to take a few races to see where we are."

The team plans an intensive test schedule, with most of the running done at Spain's Barcelona and Valencia tracks. Irvine and de la Rosa will do the brunt of the work, but Formula 3 drivers Andre Lotterer and James Courtney will do some of the more mundane work. Irvine will be the first behind the wheel of the new R3 and a second R3 should be completed in the next 10 days.

"The more running we can do with the car the more reliability we can put in to it," Lauda said.

While Jaguar Racing has a long way to go before it can start challenging the top teams, Lauda insists the team will make that climb. He also confirmed that Ford, the owners of the team, have committed to a budget and a five-year plan.

"We are not in F-1 just to make up the numbers," Lauda said, "that is not Jaguar's way. We have had a difficult couple of years, but we are now implementing the improvements that will bring us the success we require. Our new wind tunnel is just one example, but there are other developments in store that will enable us to improve. Our objective remains to win Grands Prix and, eventually, the World Championship."

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