A look back at Jaguar’s epic racing history

Earlier in September, Jaguar unveiled the sequel to one of its most legendary cars, the C-Type; the limited edition celebrates Jaguar’s victory at Le Mans in 1953. But it wasn’t Jaguar’s first or last racing success. According to Motor Sport Magazine, the D-type followed the C-type and shared many parts, but took the win again in 1954. Before those cars was the speedy XK120, yet another race win. Jaguar as a brand had started as a nameplate that appeared on Swallow Sidecar Limited’s sports saloon models.

The unfortunate abbreviation led to the brand rebranding itself as Jaguar in 1945. Combining comfort, athleticism, style and grace has long been Jaguar’s mandate, and it shows in the brand’s current range; the F-type is an excellent grand tourer even in its most aggressive form, and the XJ is one of the few British limousines still in production. Like all major brands, the manufacturer competed in different disciplines of motorsport.

Jaguar has had its ups and downs throughout its racing history.

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Jaguar Endurance Racing

Jaguar XJR-9 Racer

After that first victory at Le Mans with the Type C, which according to MSN means “competition”, Jaguar continued with the Type D, then the iconic Type E, which raced as the Type E, Lightweight. The Type E was never intended for the track. Instead, it was to capitalize on the Coventry-based manufacturer’s racing success as a sports grand tourer.

Stratson’s article, The racing history of the Jaguar E-Type traces the progression of the E-Type from a true grand tourer to a racing car. This decade-long journey began with the vehicle’s debut at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show and ended with the release of the E-Type V12 in 1971. But the revision that made the E-Type a racer at success was this slimmed down version which arrived in 1963.; such an imposing force on the track led Ferrari to produce the 250 GTO.

The previous Jaguar to race at Le Mans, the Type D, had won at Le Mans, but this Jaguar could only finish ninth, which was an obvious disappointment for the manufacturer. But that was not the end of the brand’s entry into Le Mans and Grand Tourer Racing. These races provided the marque with the perfect opportunity to prove that the stereotypes about British cars were wrong and that they were, in fact, reliable and capable of going the distance. For a modern audience, the XJ name signifies the most expensive saloon produced by Jaguar.

However, at the end of the 20th century, the XJ was a sports coupe and race car at Le Mans. Goodwood lists the XJ-S, a homologated racing car, and Jaguar racing prototypes such as the XJR-9, XJR-12 and XJR-14 as Jaguar’s greatest racing cars. Between 1988 and 1992, these cars chained victories and championships before the brand withdrew from competition.

Recently, the brand has seen success in the GT categories with the XKR racing in the GT2 and GT3 categories. Jaguar’s news department touted the F-type as being produced to GT4 specifications for Invictus Games Racing in 2018, but it was not widely adopted.

A not-so-successful chapter in Jaguar’s racing history

Jaguar R5 Formula 1 car
Via Wikipedia

However, not all of Jaguar’s racing history has been so successful; in 1955, the company was caught up in the tragedy at Le Mans which left 83 spectators dead and 180 injured. The Yesterday channel called it “the worst disaster in the history of motorsport”. Jaguar cars tried to race outside their traditional domain of Le Mans racing, notably under Ford ownership, = their entry into Formula 1.

After acquiring Stewart Formula 1, the team founded by Jackie Stewart, it was renamed Jaguar Racing; the team raced between 2000 and 2004 before becoming Red Bull Racing. After hiring Adrian Newey, they found their way to World Championship success. In 2000 Autosport reported an interview with Jackie Stewart regarding his former team, Jaguar was continuing with its five-year plan started in 1997 and that it was not falling behind. Ford funded the team well, bringing in racing genius Niki Lauda.

In 2002, Autoracer reported that Lauda took the team car to the Valencia track and entered talented drivers like Eddie Irvine and Mark Webber. But unable to retain key personnel and drivers, the team failed to build the momentum to claim success by only touching the podium twice. The writing was long on the wall for the Formula 1 team, Crash reported Jaguar pulled out of Formula 3 racing in 2001 with the team focusing solely on Formula 1 and not developing talent pilot at the junior level.

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An electric future for Jaguar

Jaguar I-Pace SVR?  It happens, according to Jaguar Exec
by Jaguar

Jaguar’s recent I-Pace has set its sights on the Tesla Model 3 as a more affordable electric car but still with that hint of luxury. To build the same prestige that had come with their Le Mans wins that translated to E-Type and saloon sales in the 1950s and 1960s, the marque entered Formula E and created the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy. With the team’s first entry into Formula E in the 2016 season, the team was more successful than in the Formula 1 days.

In July, Race Tech announced that Jaguar is fully committed to the third generation of Formula E cars, meaning they are committed for a few more seasons to come, with Jaguar aiming to become a key player in the market for electric vehicles by 2025. Race Tech suggests that these two goals complement each other and allow Jaguar to develop the same reputation they had in their early years. The I-Pace Etrophy was less successful, operating as a support series for the Formula E championship for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Autocar drove one while preparing for the first season in 2018 and described driving the electric vehicle as a form of sensory deprivation, remarkably similar to an internal combustion engine race car but with less sound. The electrification of racing has placed Jaguar incredibly well into the new age of vehicles, Jaguar racing has entered its next stage and continues its racing history.

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