- The Jaguar XJR-14 at the Porsche Curves

A Brief History of a Classic British Brand at Le Mans.

23w ago


Jaguar first appeared in September 1935 as a model name on an SS 2 and half litre sports saloon. A matching open two seater sports model with a 3 and half litre engine which was named the SS Jaguar 100.

The Swallow Sidecar Company was founded in 1922 by two motorcycle enthusiasts, William Lyons and William Walmsley. Walmsley elected to sell out and in order to buy the Swallow business Lyons formed the S.S Cars Limited in 1934. On March 23rd 1945 Jaguar was official born when S.S Cars shareholders changed the name to Jaguars Cars Limited.

Jaguar soon came to the Sarthe soon after this to test their cars. In 1950 they brought three XK120s to tackle the daunting challenge that the Sarthe circuit brings. Johnson and co-driver Bert Hardley never ran lower than seventh place and was in second place for two hours but unfortantley had to retire due to a clutch failure at the 21 hour mark. The other two cars finished 12th and 15th, a great achievement for their first race at the circuit. The following year they brought a car with specifically designed bodywork, it was the C-Type, which won the race outright in 1951 with British pairing Peter Walker and Peter Whitehead completing 267 laps.

In 1953 they won it again with the C-Type this time with British pairing Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton completing 304 laps, however Ferrari took the title in 1954, but then in 1955 with Mike Hawthorn & Ivor Bueb in the classic shape of the D-Type, they regained the title. With the D-Type they won it another two times, in 1956 with British pairing Ron Flockhart & Ninian Sanderson and in 1957 with Ron Flockhart and Ivor Bueb. During 1956 & 1957 this was under a Scottish team of Ecurie Ecosse, however all five wins came under the management of Frank Raymond Wilton England or known as Lofty England.

Jaguar wouldn't win Le Mans again until 1988 this time with Kidlington based Tom Walkinshaw's TWR team, with the XJR9LM. The winning car was driven by Jan Lammers, Johnny Dumfries and Andy Wallace, in the Silk Cut Jaguar completing a total of 394 laps.

The last time Jaguar rasied the trophy at Le Mans 24 hours was 1990, 28 years ago with the XJR-12 still under the TWR team with the Silk Cut Jaguar line up of John Nielsen, Price Cobb and Martin Brundle.

I am still hoping for the day we will see the distinctive cat out on the track for the 24 hours and to step on to the podium.

All images have been taken by myself at the Classic Le Mans 2018.