The history behind Jaguar’s return to motor racing in Formula E

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The history behind Jaguar’s return to motor racing in Formula E

To celebrate the recent announcement that Jaguar is to return to racing, we thought we would remind ourselves of their racing heritage through the years. To read more about the announcement of Jaguar’s racing debut in Formula E – click here. 

Jaguar is a brand synonymous with motor racing prestige. Its successes date back to the very first victory by an XK120 at Silverstone in a Daily Express sponsored One-Hour Production Car Race held on 30 August 1949. Two years later and a privateer team took a modified XK120, the C Type to Le Mans and won with Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead at the helm.

Throughout the 1950s, Jaguar racked up five victories in seven years at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the factory supported C Type of Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt in 1953 followed by the D Types driven by Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb in 1955 and the Ecurie Ecosse run D Types in 1956 and 1957.  Later, the road going production model of those victorious Le Mans prototypes the E Types raced at home and abroad throughout the 1960s both in standard and lightweight aluminium bodied trim.

During the 1970s the E Type was given a new competitive lease of life in the USA by two teams chosen by Jaguar to prepare the cars for the Sports Car Club of America Championship (SCCA). Those teams were Bob Tulius’s Group 44 and Huffaker Racing California. The E-type racing programme was concluded with the 1975 season but Bob Tullius and Group 44 continued their successful involvement with Jaguar, first in the XJS, and later with the specially-built XJR sports racing cars which in the 1980s contested the American IMSA races, and brought Jaguar back to Le Mans.

 Back home in the UK, the success of Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) with various privateer teams caught the attention of Jaguar in 1982. The successful relationship launched with the entry of the Jaguar XJ-S into the European Touring Car Championship, racking up a number of wins that season. 

By 1988, TWR had taken its first Le Mans victory in a V12-powered XJR-9 which ended the lengthy reign of Porsche at Le Mans and within the World Sportscar Championship up to that point. The famous “Silk Cut” liveried are an iconic part of motor racing folklore and their star studded team of drivers included Eddie Cheever, Johnny Dumfries, John Watson, Martin Brundle, John Nielsen, Jan Lammers, Davy Jones, Danny Sullivan, Price Cobb and Andy Wallace to name but a few. Further success was to follow at Le Mans with a victory in 1990.

 TWR and Jaguar formed ‘JaguarSport’ initially to build tuned versions of Jaguar road-cars, culminating in the production of the XJ220 and XJR-15 supercars at a new facility at Bloxham and were victorious at Le Mans in 1993 only to be disqualified over a regulatory technicality. In 1999 Jaguar racing once again entered the mainstream with an ambitious move into the Formula 1 when Ford bought Jackie Stewart’s team. Jaguar’s first Formula one outing was at Melbourne, Australia at the beginning of the 2000 season. The team was marred by financial issues but Irishman Eddie Irvine, achieved the teams best results when he finished third at both the 2001 Monaco GP and the 2002 Italian GP. 

Most recently it has once again fallen to a team from the USA to fly the Jaguar flag with the RSR Jaguar XK GT car that was campaigned within the American Le Mans Series by Paul Gentilozzi’s team and at Le Mans in 2010.

Picture credits:

“JaguarGoodwoodHill” by Surreal Name Given – Flickr: Goodwood Hill (40 of 49). Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons

“Jaguar XJS TWR 1984” by Sicnag – Jaguar XJS TWR 1984Uploaded by OSX. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons 

“Jaguar XJR9” by I, Pyrope. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Mac K Photography: https://www.flickr.com/photos/corvetteboy3