On the eve of this weekend's Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, Paul Gentilozzi and his RSR team unveiled the new factory-assisted Jaguar GT2 contender that will bring the legendary manufacturer back to sports car racing.
Gentilozzi spoke at the launch as he explained the scale of his ambitions for the new machine.
Q. So you want to take this car to Le Mans?
Paul Gentilozzi: Yes. Everybody wants to go to Le Mans. Next year, we hope, if we can get an invitation.
Q. With a two car team?
PG: Yes. We plan to have two cars.
Q. Do you want to have a British driver in the team?
PG: Yes. We have talked to a lot of British drivers. Johnny Mowlem is here, we have talked to drivers all over the world, but our intention would be to have a British driver. We have talked to Nigel...
Q. So are your talks with Nigel Mansell serious?
PG: I ran in to Nigel Mansell at Le Mans this year, and we knew each other from our Champ Car days. He said 'I'm excited to hear about what you are doing' and so on. So I said 'You should come race with us' and he said 'I'd love to, are you serious?' We'd always talked and when I was in TransAm, Nigel always wanted to come and drive our car, because they are great fun and have loads of power. And at Le Mans he told me that he wanted to come back and with his son. They would like to race in the US. We've had a talk, we are going to talk more and it may just end up as that, a talk among friends. We will see.
Q. Has the car been homologated yet?
PG: Yes it has by the ACO.
Q. Were there any challenges with that?
PG: It was an interesting process. The first car was outside of the intention of the ACO, so we had to build another car. We read the rules differently than they did and in the end they were right. We were too aggressive.
Q. Is the car significantly different from your first attempt?
PG: No just some alterations to the chassis. We read the rules one way, and we are inexperienced at this, and after we met with the IMSA officials and the ACO and realised we had gone in the wrong direction. Rather than do an S-car like some manufacturers do, we decided to build a full-blown GT2 car.
Q. What sort of weight distribution figures are you getting, are you confident it can compete with the Ferraris?
PG: Well the Ferrari has a rear engine. But this has a great engine and it is set well back and the car is all aluminium. Structurally it has a transaxle and a fuel cell weighted behind the driver so the weight distribution is near-perfect in our minds.
Q. But you haven't run it yet at all, so you still must have a lot of questions.
PG: We have a lot of answers to find. We have done about 800 hours of CFD, and really, Jaguar Engineering did all that. They did a fantastic job. We probably got a little carried away with too much CFD, as we were building the car, but it was important that it looked like the production car, but it had to be a good race car and that was a difficult balance to strike.
Q. How extensive is the relationship between you and Jaguar?
PG: We talk every week.
Q. Are you using many of Jaguar's facilities?
PG: Well we didn't build anything in the UK, but we used all of their engineering facilities. From cooling, to brakes, to engine theory and aerodynamics, all of those things were encompassed in this. It is a five-litre direct injected engine and we had no experience with DI, so we had to rely heavily on the engine group. One of the great thing is the on-going communication that we have had. While there has been 3,000 miles difference, we have really worked closely on the engine development.
Q. Do you have a programme plan, or targets that you have to achieve by a certain point?
PG: I don't think we would burden ourselves with that kind of expectation at this point. Every race we go to we expect to win. We have a lot history. We have won the 24 Hours of Daytona twice, we have won Sebring, so we have a great endurance pedigree and we are going to apply that and try to win every race we can.
Q. Realistically, where do you expect to be in terms of your competition to begin with?
PG: Right now, we are developing a tyre and a car together. We have raced against Pratt and Miller, for example, for ten years in TransAm. We know their abilities and they know ours. We know we can compete. The people on my team all came from my Champ Car programme, so they are experienced successful guys that have a high level of professionalism. We are not worried about that, right now we just need to sort things.
Q. What will be the price of a customer car?
PG: Well we don't know yet. We haven't added up what it costs, but by Laguna we expect to have a figure. I would say that these cars are in the range of 350,000 and 500,000 Euros depending on who you talk to and it will be in that range.
Q. How closely will you work with your customers?
PG: We have built 35 customer TransAm cars and 34 of them are still racing around the world from South Africa to Costa Rica, Australia and the United States. We have a constant customer programme. We like to make an engineering partnership so the mechanics that work on the car come and work with us as the car is being completed. It is a complete open book from an engineering standpoint. So if you have a GT team in Europe, we would give them our information, engine spec and allow them to come and work in our shop. We really have had a long and successful programme supporting sportscar teams.
Q. Are you talking to many teams at the moment?
PG: Yes a lot. I think everyone was waiting. We kept this a very tight secret and it was important for us not to release information so the teams that have called us have only seen drawings. We have a team coming next week to our test in Michigan to drive the car.