Jaguar Founder Sir William Lyons’s motto for his cars was “grace, pace and space.” There’s no doubt that over the years Lyons’ road cars had all three attributes, and while “space” is nice, it’s the other two aspects of Jaguars that really get the blood pumping. None of Jaguar’s race cars have lacked either grace or pace.
Jaguar has dipped its toes in a variety of racing types over the years, from road rallying to Formula 1. And though not all of their ventures have been resounding successes (see: Formula 1), there have been periods of time where Jaguar has lead the pack, dominating the track with all its British bravado and good looks.
King of the Alps
1950 to 1952
In the years following WWII, Jaguar developed the car that would put the brand on the map: the XK120. Equipped with Jaguar’s DOHC (dual overhead camshaft) and inline-six XK engine, the XK120 made for a great road racer. Ian Appleyard’s car (with the registration “NUB 120”) is perhaps the most notorious example of the XK120 to ever compete in motorsport.
In 1950, Appleyard competed in the Alpine Rally, an endurance road race that spanned multiple countries through the Alps. He completed the rally with no penalties, winning him the Coup d’Alpes. Winning the award was no small feat, but the competition’s most coveted prize was the Coup d’Or, awarded to competitors who win a Coup d’Alps for three consecutive years. Appleyard did just that, competing in 1951 and 1952 without penalty in the very same XK120. Appleyard was the first to win the award, of which only three were ever won during the rally’s run from 1932 to 1971.
Jaguar Dominates Le Mans
1951 to 1957
Around the same time Appleyard dominated the alpine rallies in his road-going XK120, the car’s track equivalent — the XK120C, (commonly referred to as the C-Type) — was making big waves at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The C-Type used the XK120’s running gear, tuning the engine to around 200 horsepower, then mated that with a lithe aluminum body. The first C-Types were ready to race in early 1951, and immediately entered in the Le Mans that year, where Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead piloted one to victory.
In 1952, the C-Types had mechanical issues and were forced to retire. The following year, Jaguar fitted disc brakes to the cars and the C-Types achieved tremendous success: of the four C-Types that were entered in the race, the cars finished first, second, fourth and ninth. In addition to taking first, Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt finished with an average speed of over 100 mph for the race, the first time the feat was achieved.
The C-Type was replaced with the D-Type in 1954, which had a bump in power, a monocoque chassis and a more aerodynamic body. The car was capable of hitting over 170 mph on the Mulsanne Straight and eventually took first at the race in 1955, 1956 and 1957.
The Bremont Jaguar Range
Bremont is driven by a deep desire to reclaim the lost tradition of British watchmaking. That much was clear when we took a look inside Bremont’s facilities in the United Kingdom to observe their production process earlier this year. So it’s only natural that the company has become the watchmaking partner of choice for Jaguar. Bremont’s new MKI and MKII watches continue the excellent collaboration that began with the lightweight E-Type. Both new models are dedicated to the original road-going icon which was not only the fastest production car in the world of its time, but also the most beautiful, according to even Enzo Ferrari. Learn more about the watches here.
Also, if you’re in the New York City area, come meet Bremont’s cofounder Nick English as well as members of the GP staff during a special event at Bremont’s 501 Madison location at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 19th. You can RSVP to this free event here, but make sure you act quickly as space is limited.
Four Doors for Victory
1958 to 1963
In the late ’50s and early ’60s, Jaguar proved it didn’t need a purpose-built sports car to win races. Around this time, touring car racing — pitting everyday road cars against each other — came into its own. Teams fielded both the Jaguar Mark 1 and Mark 2 sedans during those early years, making Jaguar’s small sedan an icon.
Between the privateer teams like John Coombs Racing, Peter Barry Racing and Equipe Endeavor, Jaguar Saloons were victorious in a majority of British Saloon Car Championship (BSCC) races from 1958 to 1963. Not only did a Jag take first in most races, they also consistently took second and third place. Meanwhile, in France, the Jaguar Saloons were incredibly successful at the Tour de France Automobile road race, winning the Touring Car class from 1959 through 1963.
Success in the States
1975 to 1978
Though a beautiful and successful road car, the Jaguar E-Type’s performance in racing was not as resounding. E-Types had raced since their debut in the early ’60s, but were never competitive in top-tier racing. The E-Type’s biggest moment in motorsport came right at the end of the car’s production run in 1975, when the American Group 44 racing team fielded a Series III V12 XKE piloted by Bob Tullius. Tullius won the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) B-Class championship that year.
The E-Type was phased out of racing after 1975, but Group 44 Racing continued its relationship with Jaguar through the rest of the ’70s and ’80s. The racing team saw even more success in SCCA’s Trans-Am racing series in the later half of the ’70s, piloting race-prepped Jaguar XJ-S cars. Tullius took the drivers’ championship in 1977 and in 1978 Jaguar won the manufactures’ title thanks to the Group 44’s race-prepped XJ-S.
The Prototype Years
1982 to 1991
Group 44’s success with Jaguar in the ’70s ultimately evolved into one of Jaguar’s last great racing developments. Tullius had the vision of building a mid-engined, Jaguar V12-powered racing prototype. The resulting car was the XJR-5, completed in 1982 and poised to compete in IMSA’s GTP class and later in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Unfortunately for Bob Tullius and Group 44, the XJR-5 failed to win any championships.
However, the prototype program showed serious promise, so Jaguar turned it over to the successful British team of Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR), who had previously found success racing an XJ-S in the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC). TWR developed its own XJR prototypes for the World Sportscar Championship (WSCC) which it won outright in 1987, 1988 and 1991. The XJR prototypes also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1988 and 1990 — the first Jaguar victories at the race since the D-Type’s last win in 1957.