JaguarSport XJR-15

JaguarSport XJR-15

In the late 1980s, Tom Walkinshaw had seen the potential demand amongst wealthy customers for exotic and expensive cars. There were already customers wanting to purchase Jaguar Group C cars for themselves, and other cars such as the Ferrari F40 and Porsche 959 had found a ready market.

In order to produce the “ultimate Jaguar”, Tom Walkinshaw used the basis of the Tony Southgate designed XJR-9 Group C racer and commissioned Peter Stevens (who was later to design the McLaren F1 car) to create a softer shape more likely to appeal to the target market. Code-named “R9R”, the prototype was fitted with a modified 6-litre version of the V12 race engine used for the Group C racers and would be eligible for both Group C and GTP racing.

Under R9R’s skin, the general layout was similar to the XJR-9, with the rear uprights, dampers and springs designed to fit inside the wheels allowing more room for the underbody venturi tunnels. The front springs and dampers were were housed horizontally above the driver’s legs, as per the XJR prototypes, and inside the car there were also distinct similarities, including the position of the gear shift to the right of the driver.

At the same time as TWR was developing R9R, Jaguar was also working its own road-going supercar in conjunction with TWR – the Jaguar XJ220 – which posed something of a political problem for Tom Walkinshaw. In order to create some distance between the cars, the XJR-15 became a product of the joint-venture company owned by Jaguar and TWR: JaguarSport. To further distance the cars, where XJ220 was sold as a road car, XJR-15 was sold as a racing machine and owners were required to sign up to participate in a special race series developed specifically for the car: the JaguarSport Million Dollar Intercontinental Challenge.

The asking price for the cars – half a million pounds each – also included full race preparation and backup for the race series, and body preparation from JaguarSport. The XJR-15 race series was to be held over three rounds as support races for the 1991 Formula 1 championship: Monaco, Silverstone, and Spa-Francorchamps. The cars could be owner-driven, however most owners preferred to hire professional drivers including Derek Warwick, David Brabham, John Nielsen and Juan-Manuel Fangio II. Winners of the first two rounds would each win a 6-litre Jaguar XJR-S, whilst the bonus for the final round was a one million dollar prize fund.

Round 1 at Monaco was an eventful affair. 16 cars started but the tight twisty circuit was to take it’s toll on the competitors with many of the cars sustaining damage from the crash barriers lining the circuit. Derek Warwick was to take both pole position and the race victory and the only non-finishers were John Nielsen and record producer Matt Aitken.

Round 2 at Silverstone again saw 16 cars enter, with Fangio taking victory (plus an additional two laps having failed to see the chequered flag at the end).

The final round at Spa was won by Armin Hahne who took a half share in the million-dollar prize money awarded to the car’s owner, with Cor Euser finishing in second.