Lot 120: 1985 Jaguar XJR-5 IMSA Sports Prototype
Jaguar dominated at Le Mans during the 1950s, winning the 24-Hour endurance classic five times in seven years, an exceptional achievement that was reflected in steadily rising sales. By the start of the 1980s though, the Coventry manufacturer was facing stiff competition from BMW, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz - particularly in its most important export market, the USA - and a decision was made to return the ‘Leaping Cat’ to the race track in order to raise its international profile. Sports car veteran Bob Tullius had been successfully campaigning the V12-engined E-Type and XJ-S in North America since the 1970s, and his Group 44 organisation was chosen to develop Jaguar’s new IMSA GTP contender.
Lee Dykstra was hired as designer and work commenced at Group 44’s factory in Westchester, Virginia early in 1981. Dykstra’s Special Chassis Inc had already built a ‘ground effect’ car, and this aerodynamic principle was built into the XJR-5, its narrow aluminium ‘honeycomb’ chassis and 60-degree V12 engine enabling long under-body venturis to be created, ‘sucking’ the car on to the road at speed. Bolted to the aluminium firewall, the road-based 6.0-litre V12 engine was used as a stressed chassis member, the rear suspension being attached directly to the transaxle. Carburettors were used at first, but with a Le Mans entry in the offing a switch was made to the more efficient and economical Lucas Micos electronic fuel injection before the start of the 1984 season.
The XJR-5 made its racing debut at Road America, Wisconsin on 22nd August 1982, where Tullius and Bill Adam won the GTP class and finished third overall in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) 500-mile race. Tullius and Adam drove the XJR-5 to its maiden win the following year, at the Road Atlanta 500km race, which was followed by three more victories. At the season’s end Tullius finished second in the IMSA Championship, one point behind Al Hobart (March-Porsche).
The XJR-5 was redesigned and improved for 1984, while sports car racing veterans Brian Redman and David Hobbs were added to the driver line-up. The 1984 season brought Group 44 a solitary win, but a memorable one, Brian Redman/Doc Bundy triumphing at the Budweiser Miami Grand Prix ahead of Bob Tullius/Pat Bedard to complete a Jaguar one-two. In 1984 Tullius realised his dream of returning Jaguar to Le Mans, giving the marque its first official presence there since the works D-Types raced in 1956. Tullius led the race, briefly, and at half distance Group 44’s two XJR-5s were running 6th and 7th, but eventually both cars retired. The team fared better in 1985 when the Tullius/Robinson/Ballot-Lena XJR-5 completed the race in 13th place to record Jaguar’s first Le Mans finish since 1963.
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