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Claws out: Jaguar joins Formula E

Many carmakers like to brag about their racing histories, but Jaguar has the goods to back up such boasting. It has multiple Le Mans to its credit, thanks to cars like the D-Type and XJR-9. It must also own up to a disastrous entry into Formula One but, hey, no one’s perfect.

Now, Jaguar is returning to racing in a somewhat unusual way. It’s the latest car manufacturer to enter Formula E, the racing series for electric cars. Jaguar doesn’t sell an electric car right now, but it believes Formula E can help it develop the technologies needed for a possible future production electric vehicle.

“Electric vehicles will absolutely play a role in Jaguar Land Rover’s future product portfolio and Formula E will give us a unique opportunity to further our development of electrification technologies,” JLR engineering director Nick Rogers said in a statement. Determine exactly how much a racing program influences production cars is always tricky, especially in Formula E, where the cars are highly regulated.

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While it will have Jaguar stickers on it, the racecar that hits the grid next fall for Formula E’s third season will likely be the same Spark-Renault SRT_01e chassis used by all other teams. Formula E required all cars to be identical for its inaugural 2014 season, although for this season teams were allowed to design their own powertrain components.

Formula E races take place on temporary street circuits around the world. There are already a few manufacturers backing teams, including Audi, DS (Citroën), Mahindra, and Renault. Jaguar will collaborate with Williams Advanced Engineering on its entry. That outfit is the engineering arm of the Williams F1 team, and helped Jaguar develop the aborted C-X75 plug-in hybrid supercar that recently appeared in the James Bond movie Spectre.

Jaguar has shown some interest in electric cars before. Earlier this year, the British firm and partner Land Rover showed a prototype electric vehicle, along with a mild hybrid and plug-in hybrid. Last year, it also tried to trademark the name “EV-Type,” fueling speculation that it was planning an electric sports car to complement the current F-Type.