Jaguar XJR-9 - Le Mans Winner After 30 Years of Waiting

October 15, 2015
Marijan Malcevic

  • Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-9, 1988 Le Mans

Victories at 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is probably the most popular race in the world, have a special significance in the history of every sportscar manufacturer. Right at the top of the list is Jaguar, which holds seven overall victories at Le Mans.

We have already written about C-Type and D-Type, the winning cars of the 1950s, and now it is time to present the car which ended the 30-year long waiting period after D-Type’s win in 1957. That car is Jaguar XJR-9, a sports prototype which was victorious at the 1988 24h Le Mans.

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First of Jaguar XJR Series was XJR-5

First Jaguar XJR debuted in 1983

The story of Jaguar’s XJR Series started back in 1983, when the American team Group 44 Racing, headed up by Bob Tullius, built the Fabcar-designed XJR-5 for racing in the IMSA Camel GTP championship. After becoming established in IMSA, Jaguar turned to Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) to develop another car, known as XJR-6, for the World Sportscar Championship, using the same V12 power and debuting halfway into the 1985 season.

Different cars for IMSA and WSC

Jaguar would continue using two different types of chassis for IMSA and WSC, so XJR-7 and XJR-8 were built. The XJR-8, which raced in the 1987 season, was more important because it used the V12 engine with displacement increased to 7l. The same engine was built into the XJR-9 in 1988.

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Group 44’s Jaguar XJR-7 at 1985 Daytona

Jaguar XJR-9 came with a victorious package

XJR-9 was built for both FIA Group C and IMSA Camel GTP racing. The car was an evolution of the XJR-8 design, drawn by Tony Southgate and built by TWR. For the 24 Hours of Le Mans, they developed the XJR-9LM, with a low-drag aerodynamic package required for high straight-line speeds on the Mulsanne Straight. One of the remarkable design details were the hidden rear wheels.

Monocoque made of carbon fiber and kevlar

The carbon fiber and Kevlar monocoque of the XJR-9 were constructed in October 1987 at the Advance Composite Technology factory in Derbyshire, UK. The first three XJR-9s, chassis numbers 188, 288 and 388, were then sent out for special testing that was organized by Jaguar at Big Spring in Texas. Cars completed over 400 miles of testing while TWR hunted for the perfect setup.

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7.0-litre V12 engine on WSC-spec Jaguar XJR-9

Maximum speed of almost 400 km/h

The WSR-spec XJR-9 had a 6995cc V12 engine with 750 hp and 828 Nm of torque. March/TWR manual 5-speed transmission was used to transfer all that power to the rear wheels. The car weighed only 881 kg, so the power-weight ratio was fantastic and the maximum speed was about 395 km/h.

Victorious debut at Daytona

Jaguar XJR-9, sponsored by Castrol, had a competitive debut at the 1988 24 Hours of Daytona and took the overall win. The winning car #60 was driven by Martin Brundle, Raul Boesel, John Nielsen and Jan Lammers. The car #61 finished 26th. The team scored one more victory in the last race of the season and finished third in the constructor’s championship.

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Victory of Silk Cut Jaguar at 1988 24 Hours of Le Mans

First Le Mans win for Jaguar cars since 1957

In 1988, the World Sports Prototype Championship XJR-9 was much more successful and scored six wins in eleven races, winning the Teams’ championship and Drivers’ title for Martin Brundle. Silk Cut sponsored XJR-9LM won the 1988 24h Le Mans. It was the first Le Mans victory for Jaguar since 1957. The drivers were Jan Lammers, Johnny Dumfries and Andy Wallace.

Victory despite gearbox problems

The Jaguar team suffered from gearbox problems, so Lammers had to hold the car in 4th gear to keep the gearbox from damaging itself. Despite that problem, after 394 laps of racing, #2 Jaguar won ahead factory-prepared Porsche 962C, driven by Hans-Joachim Stuck, Derek Bell and Klaus Ludwig. Another Jaguar (number 22), driven by Derek Daly, Kevin Cogan and Larry Perkins, finished fourth. All other positions in Top 10 were taken by Porsches.

No wins in season 1989

In 1989, the XJR-9 once again entered in both the IMSA Camel GTP and the World Sports Prototype Championship. After the XJR-9 scored one win, Jaguar introduced the XJR-10 midway through the season. The new car scored two more wins and Jaguar finished 2nd in the championship. A similar story occurred in the 1989 World Sports Prototype Championship, with Jaguar not being the winner of a single race during the series.

Midway through the championship, the XJR-11 was developed to replace the XJR-9. Jaguar finished 4th in the Teams’ Championship. The XJR-10 and XJR-11 took a break from the V12, using a new turbocharged 3.5L V6. That engine originated from the Metro 6R4 rally car.

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Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-12, which was in fact upgraded XJR-9, has won 1990 24h Le Mans

One more Le Mans win for XJR-12

In 1990, TWR decided that continuing to develop their V6 in WSC was useless, so the new XJR-12 was suited with the old, but reliable, V12. The result: one more, and Jaguar’s last, Le Mans victory. The drivers were Martin Brundle, John Nielsen and Price Cobb. XJR-12, which was in fact an upgraded XJR-9, also won the 1990 24 Hours of Daytona, driven by Jan Lammers, Andy Wallace and Davy Jones.

XJR-15 was a road-legal supercar

During 1990, TWR used the XJR-9 chassis for the development of the R9R prototype which later evolved into the XJR-15 supercar and spec-racer. It was a limited edition of the road-legal supercar built by TWR from the design of the XJR-9 and featuring Jaguar’s V-12. Several XJR-15s were also built into racing cars for a special one-make series meant as a support race for Formula One.

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1988 Jaguar XJR-9, with chassis number 388, was sold for 2.145.000 dollars

XJR-14 was the last of racing XJRs

XJR-14 was the next prototype, developed for the 1991 season with a 3.5l naturally aspirated V8 engine made by Cosworth. Multiple rule changes were the factor for Jaguar’s decision to drop out of the WSC following the 1991 season and concentrate on IMSA. However, after attempting the first few races of the 1993 season, Jaguar decided to end the project altogether, marking the end of the XJR sportscar prototypes.

2,1 million for Daytona winning XJR-9

Jaguar’s sports prototypes were rare, which was the reason for high prices at auctions. Only six of XJR-9 models were built. The car with chassis number 388, one of the two XJR-9s built according to IMSA specifications, was sold for 2.145.000 dollars at the Amelia Island auction in March 2015.

Video : Chris Harris shares personal thoughts about Jaguar XJR-9

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