Tom’s Cats purred only on the podium
The XJR racing prototype programme began in 1983 with the XJR-5, built with Jaguar’s backing by American outfit Group 44 Racing for the IMSA Grand Touring Prototypes series. Once established here, Jaguar handed the factory-backed baton to Tom Walkinshaw Racing, a British team with which it had previously collaborated in several Touring Car Championships. The first fruit of their partnership, the XJR-6, arrived mid-way through the 1985 season in both the WSCC and IMSA Championships, and its successors were to cover Jaguar in glory that spanned far further afield than outright wins at Le Mans.
Using a similar production-based V12 engine to its predecessors, the XJR-9 to be sold by RM Auctions at its 2015 Amelia Island sale in March – chassis 388 – was built to IMSA specification for the 1988 season. Following super-successful results both this year and the next, it was converted to XJR-12 specification for the 1990 season, in which it famously won the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Further strengthening its appeal, chassis 388 is the sole remaining XJR-9 to be built by the factory in IMSA specification.
Having used the production-derived V12 since taking on the XJR project, 1989 saw TWR move to a lighter, more modern turbocharged V6 to better capitalise on the rule changes in the WSCC and IMSA Championships. Another car built specifically for the latter series’ requirements, the XJR-10 currently being offered by UK-based dealer Taylor & Crawley – chassis 389, proved this new set-up right from the off. After lining up on the front row at Lime Rock, it finished in second place, just eight seconds behind the winner. The car’s stellar performances subsequently contributed towards Jaguar’s second-placed manufacturer standings in both the 1989 and 1990 IMSA Championships.
A Group C Jaguar in Silk Cut livery is one of the most memorable images in motorsport history. After a brief spell with the turbocharged V6s, more rule changes dictated that TWR reverted to the old V12, which had in any case proved more robust across the long distances of Daytona and Le Mans. Chassis 12-C-190 – also currently for sale through Taylor and Crawley – was one of only two brand-new XJR-12s built for 1990; the remainder were updated XJR-9s. The fastest Jaguar on the grid at Le Mans that year, the car in question would ultimately retire a few hours before the finish, leaving its drivers to look on as its sister car took overall victory. It would compete in several more endurance races in subsequent years, before being consigned to the TWR museum.
Tom Walkinshaw’s outfit eventually folded in 2002, but its glorious ground-effect years will be forever etched into Jaguar’s rich racing history.
Photos: Tim Scott © RM Auctions (XJR-9) / Taylor & Crawley (XJR-10 and 12)
Video: RM Auctions