jaguar loop the loop

When Jaguar went loopy

The idea of driving upside down has likely been in the imagination of anyone who ever played with a toy car as a child.  You’d pull impossible turns with your matchbox miniature, before proceeding to make it perform death-defying jumps and letting it roll over a few times, then have it drive away unscathed and ready to do it all again.  There might be a nearby chair that your little metal car could miraculously drive up.  Given enough speed and the right type of furniture, you might just be able to drive upside down.  This gravity defying stunt was not for the faint hearted and was only reserved for your favourites.  Or those racing away from miniature police cars.  But in real life?  In real life physics can weigh heavily on cars.  There’s more than a few variables and complex gravitational laws to take into account.  Giving in to them would be no fun though, would it.

Enter Jaguar, an elder statesman of the motoring scene.  You just wouldn’t expect Jaguar to get all childlike and adventurous on us.  You especially wouldn’t expect them to rekindle their inner child with a new model aimed at middle aged parents and soccer Moms.  But a few years ago Jaguar did precisely that.  They went a bit loopy.  Literally. 

The Background

The Driver

The Car

The Physics

So What Happened?

The Background

In the runup to the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show (sadly recently canned from 2021 onwards), Jaguar had decided to try and steal the show before it even started.  Their plan to do so was going to turn the motoring world upside down.  If only for a few seconds.  

It turns out toy cars really were behind it too.  As the story goes, Rich Agnew (Jaguar Global Comms Bigwig) was playing with his child's hot wheels loop, proving men never grow up and also playing with toys leads to big ideas and therefore should be encouraged.  As Rich ran a toy car upside down through the loop, making ‘brmmm, brmmm, brmmm’ sounds (we may be making this bit up) his mind turned to the new Jaguar F-Pace.  What if that could be made to go upside down and do a ‘loop the loop’?  It would certainly be an attention grabbing way to announce the arrival of the new model, their first foray into the growing SUV market.  As grand entrances go, it was a tad on the risky side.  

As a side note, what a job Mr Agnew has.  Sure, there’s probably some boring paperwork to deal with somewhere along the way… but taking an idea from your kids bedroom floor to a stage in front of the world’s media is a pretty good gig.  Hmm - wonder if playing with toys counted as overtime?  Anyway, we digress.  Any stunt needs a driver.  And not just any driver.

The Driver

Terry Grant might not be well known to anyone outside of motoring circles or avid readers of the Guinness Book of World Records...but he should be.  He should be because he’s a maniac on the rubber.  Having started behind the wheel at the age of 8 in his Dad’s Land Rover, Terry took up a career in racing cars before discovering an ability to entertain the crowds by drifting and performing increasingly crazy tricks.  It would lead him to multiple world records, including one for the ‘greatest speed differential between the throw and catch of a rugby ball’ at 82.62 km/h.  That’s a little faster than the All Blacks then.  

We’ll come back to Terry soon.  For now, all you need to know is there is no one better.

The Car

The F Pace was Jaguar's first SUV.  It was met with a generally positive reception and even a year on, continued to get some good press.  It came in everything from a 2.0l supercharged petrol to a massive 5.0l V8, which we imagine would require a small petrol tanker to follow you around in case of needing to refuel.  Which was probably every 20km or so.  

One of the big differences between the F Pace and other SUVs was what it was made of.  The body was mostly aluminium, so it was considerably lighter than other SUVs of a similar size.  This made it pretty quick.

Looks wise, it was a reasonably attractive vehicle.  We say ‘reasonably’ as looking back on it now, it does come across as a little dated.  But in it’s time you can imagine it was quite the head turner.  

It wouldn't be the first car that springs to mind for trying to travel upside down in though.

The Physics

Driving upside down is a complicated business.  Exactly how it works is beyond us (hey - we write about tyres, not rocket science) although this isn’t rocket science but rather the correct balancing of different forces. 

Drive too slow and the forces of gravity will pull you to the ground.  Drive too fast and the F Pace would ground against the ramp and slow down, the driver potentially blacking out from the subsequent G forces. 

So what speed should you travel at?  For a 19 metre loop the speed was 82 km/h.  That does seem a tad slow to us, coming in a little under our first guess of 274 km/h.  Still, people who wear white lab coats generally know what they’re doing.  

Another issue to consider is the car suspension.  All previous loop the loop attempts were completed by specially made vehicles with solid suspensions.  The reason being, the force exerted on the suspension would exceed what a regular suspension can handle.  So whilst the F- Pace looked the same as the production model to the world, underneath it would be custom.  There was no other way.

The forces exerted on the vehicle were to be just as dramatically felt by the driver, Terry.  After a few practice attempts the strange dynamics of physics took their toll.  They caused him to start urinating blood. 

So What Happened?

Testing had gone pretty well.  Terry successfully executed a practice run a few weeks prior to the big night.  The only mishap was after the successful practice when he was putting his arm out the window to celebrate… and accidentally put his foot in the button which set off the fire extinguishers.  

Then a few days before the actual event Terry broke two bones in his hand during a failed barrel roll stunt (he was to complete the world's longest barrel roll two years later in a Jaguar E Pace).  He elected not to have the bones fixed so he could drive for the event.  But it meant using his left hand a lot more for the controls and readjusting how he did things.  Not ideal then.  

A little over 24 hours before the big event it started to rain.  Again, not ideal.  The team quickly repainted the track with grippier paint and used whatever they could find to extend the launchway to make up for anticipated wheel spin.  You’d think this would mean the adding of technical platforms.  They used makeshift wood and pallets.  Just whatever they could lay their hands on.  

It’s fair to say that on the evening of 15th September 2015, Terry and Rich both would have been feeling a little nervous.  Launching a new model car in front of the world's press by attempting a world record is surely the most dramatic of entrances.  You can imagine there’s never more scope for something to end up as a complete dog’s dinner either.  

As Terry started down the approach track, he was to accelerate to the top speed achievable in 2nd gear.  It was during the approach he felt the wheels start to spin a little on the damp track.  Then it happened…

At this point it’s best we leave you and pass you over to YouTube to watch what happened.  So here it is.

Terry Grant does a loop-the-loop in a Jaguar F-Pace

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