Exchange Student - 2005 Tokai-UNIV Jaguar XJR-15 YGK Power Study Car

FOR THE LOVE OF SCIENCE

In 1988, Jaguar managed to clinch an overall win at the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. With veteran racer Jan Lammers (NL) at the wheel, the imposing XJR-9 rolled over the finish line, ruling the roost despite a partially disintegrated gearbox.

Teammates Johnny Dumfries (GB) and Andy Wallace (GB) joined Lammers on the podium, celebrating Jaguar's first win since Ron Flockhart (GB) and Ivor Bueb (GB) piloted their Ecurie Ecosse D-Type to the top step in 1957.

Jaguar's victory finally broke Porsche's stronghold on Le Mans, making it a popular victory.

Jaguar's victory finally broke Porsche's stronghold on Le Mans, making it a popular victory.

In light of the fantastic achievement, Jaguar's team boss Tom Walkinshaw started brainstorming about ways to take advantage of the flurry of good publicity. His organization, Tom Walkinshaw Racing, had been the architect of Jaguar racing successes since 1982, running the XJ-S Group A touring car program as well as the XJR Group C sportscar program from 1985.

TWR's association with Jaguar started with the Group A XJ-S HE V12

TWR's association with Jaguar started with the Group A XJ-S HE V12

TWR's crowning achievement moved Walkinshaw to try and translate the amazing performance of his racing car to a road going equivalent. Egged on by the enthusiastic responses of esteemed potential customers like F1-driver Derek Warwick (GB), endurance racers Bob Wollek (FRA), Vern Schuppan (AUS) and the eccentric car collecting Sultan of Brunei, he requested designer Peter Stevens to turn the Le Mans-winning XJR-9 into a fire-breathing road legal monster.

Tom Walkinshaw presenting the Jaguar Sport XJR-15, 1990.

Tom Walkinshaw presenting the Jaguar Sport XJR-15, 1990.

Stevens started with the basic carbon fiber chassis of the XJR-9, and then widened the monocoque and raised the roof to allow the car to house two properly proportioned occupants. A 6.0L, 450 horsepower version of the 24-valve 60-degree V12 was then fitted as a stressed member, and constructed of an amalgam of the Group C engine block and Group A cylinder heads.

The engine was then mated to an in-house developed 6-speed manual racing transmission, without synchromesh. Seeing as double de-clutching wasn't popular with everyone, TWR also offered a more user-friendly fully synchronized 5-speed version as an option.

Suspension was made up of dual wishbones and pushrods in the front, with a compact vertical coilover setup at the rear, originally designed to provide space for the XJR-9's large ground effect-inducing venturi tunnels. Finally, the car was clothed in an attractive carbon-kevlar body, bringing weight down to around 1050 kg (2314 lbs).

Naturally, this recipe provided an impressive amount of performance. Helped by the mountainous 569 Nm (420 lbs ft) of torque, the XJR-15 was capable of reaching 62 miles per hour (100 kph) in 3.3 seconds, and would go on to a 191 mph (307 kph) top speed.

The car was ready by 1990, just in time to see TWR-Jaguar win Le Mans a second time with the XJR-12. As the XJR-15 was mostly an independent effort by TWR supported by Jaguar, it was introduced under the Jaguar Sport banner.

Curiously, despite being a racing car for the road, the first sixteen examples were paradoxically intended for racing. These chassis would instead be part of the inaugural Jaguar Sport Intercontinental Challenge, a one-make series running as a support program to three Formula One Grands Prix for the 1991 season.

In a similar vain to the famed BMW M1 Procar Championship of 1979, the Jaguar Sport Intercontinental Challenge ended up featuring well-known drivers from all over the motorsport scene, including touring car racers Jim Richards (NZ), Armin Hahne (GER), David Leslie (GB), Ian Flux (GB). F1-stars David Brabham (AUS) and Derek Warwick, joined by sportscar veterans Bob Wollek, Davy Jones (USA) and Kenny Acheson (USA).

While some actually owned the cars, most were hired by wealthy owners with more money than skill, who wanted to see their car pushed to the max in far more capable hands.

A street brawl at Monaco, 1991.

A street brawl at Monaco, 1991.

The races proved very competitive and spectacular, aided by the grand prizes of a Jaguar XJR-S each for the winner of the Monaco and the Silverstone rounds. At the final race at Spa Francorchamps, a champion would be crowned complemented by a 1 million dollar cash prize. The title ended up going to Armin Hahne.

Though the series was well-received, the Intercontinental Challenge folded after just one season. By the end of 1992, XJR-15 production had stopped after just 53 units, priced at 500,000 GBP each. The production run included a select number of just five XJR-15 LM's, reportedly featuring a 7.4L version of the V12 rated at 710 horsepower.

The extreme XJR-15 LM was reserved for five very fortunate Japanese collectors.

The extreme XJR-15 LM was reserved for five very fortunate Japanese collectors.

With the racing series stopped and production wound down, most cars found a home with filthy rich collectors, as the world braced for the arrival of the XJ220. In the wake of the release of its successor so short after its moment in the spotlight, and the collapse of the sportscar market due to an economic recession, the XJR-15 faded into obscurity.

Its low numbers and often unfortunate fate as a garage queen/wheeled investment object meant few were seen, and it disappeared from public consciousness as a result. As with many rejected supercars of the period, this made it strangely accessible to those who knew where to look.

Oddly enough, one of those who knew where to look was Yoshimasa Hayashi, team leader of Tokai University's Racecar Engineering program. Hayashi was a former Nismo engineer, who had designed the fearsome VRH35Z twin turbo V8 for Nissan's Group C program.

That manic motor had propelled Mark Blundell to a blistering lap record at Le Mans in 1990, and even survived into the GT1 era in the back of the R390 GT1. Funnily enough, the R390 bore a striking resemblance to the XJR-15, as both had were TWR projects, and both were drawn up by legendary chief designer Tony Southgate.

Hayashi's VRH35Z was a key element of Nissan's racing success in the 80's and 90's.

Hayashi's VRH35Z was a key element of Nissan's racing success in the 80's and 90's.

Now a member of Tokai's faculty, he wished to take his students back to Le Mans, and to become the first ever university student team to compete in the greatest endurance racing event on the planet.

The project was kicked off in 2001, with Hayashi-san's students drawing up a rough design brief for their very own Le Mans Prototype. However, being a privately-funded university, the team couldn't just start designing or even buying the parts for such a car right off the bat. Yoshimasha Hayashi instead focused on designing an engine first.

Using his experience with Nismo and his position as Supreme Advisor at engineering firm YGK Co, he based his efforts around the old VRH35 concept. The result was the YR40T, a slightly enlarged, 4.0L version of the twin turbo Group C V8. The basic architecture then, was solid. But the team still needed to find a way to test the new motor in racing conditions.

In other words, they needed a mule. To this end, the crew acquired a Jaguar XJR-15 in 2005. Hasyashi-san and his students promptly set about modifying the exiled exotic. The V12 was swiftly discarded to make room for the new V8, and the bodywork was modified accordingly.

Extra air intakes adorned the now squared-off sides of the formerly curvy machine, and were accompanied by an large scoop on the roof. Combined the new additions worked to keep the new engine cool and its turbochargers fed. The complicated and heavy pop-up headlights were deleted, and the rear section of the greenhouse was blocked off.

For simplicity, the nose now sported single round headlights in large plastic covers. Overall the rear section was made much flatter and more square, and the Rover 216-sourced taillights were replaced by simple circular units. Oddly, the angular bodywork was adorned with peculiar pronounced round wheel arches.

A set of grilles in the tail section allowed hot air to flow out of the engine compartment, which had sprouted a large wing supported by an unusually thick Y-shaped strut. The only exterior elements linking the heavily mutated car to its British origins were the front and rear bumper.

Aside from the heart transplant and the extensive plastic surgery, the car was otherwise still an XJR-15 underneath. As soon as the car was finished, Hayashi-san's team of as much as 150 students sent it out on the track to start gathering data.

Driven by the students themselves, the mule racked up mile after mile at Sportsland SUGO, a Yamaha-owned motorsport complex. The sessions provided valuable data for the development of the YR40T engine.

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The car, imaginatively named "Study Car", was used in this role up to 2008. By that time, the team was confident the YR40T was up to the task of racing at Circuit de La Sarthe. With the necessary budget gained in the meantime, a Courage-Oreca LC70 LMP1 chassis was purchased.

The chassis was fitted with the YGK Power YR40T, and entered into the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans. With the FIA-mandated intake restrictors fitted, power dropped from a potential 950 horsepower to around 600. Though the Tokai-UNIC Courage-Oreca LC70 YGK Power failed to come within 107% of the pole time of Peugeot's 908 HDi FAP V12-diesel monster, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest showed some rare goodwill by allowing the team to start anyway.

While the LMP1 project went ahead, and the team managed to realize their ambition of being the first university to enter Le Mans, the Study Car still wasn't retired. The young and inexperienced outfit failed to finish the race due to a variety of technical gremlins, which necessitated a return to testing.

Budget for a second appearance at Le Mans failed to materialize however, so the team was relegated to two entries at the Zhuhai 1000 Kilometer race, part of the Asian Le Mans Series.

In preparation for future entries, Yoshimasa Hayashi and a cadre of YGK engineers had started work on an innovative exhaust energy recovery system, which Hayashi announced as soon as 2009. However, the celebrated professor retired in 2012, some two years before the system became a reality.

The YR45R's turbos were used to generate power in more ways than one.

The YR45R's turbos were used to generate power in more ways than one.

In 2014, the Study Car was pulled out of the mothballs once again, and fitted with the new YR45R 4.5L single turbo V8. This engine featured YGK's long-awaited EER-system, which recovered energy from the turbocharger as it spooled down during off-throttle situations.

The Study Car's motor generator unit.

The Study Car's motor generator unit.

The turbines were linked to a motor-generator unit through an output shaft. Since the turbo spun at much higher revolutions than the MGU could (106.000 rpm vs 18.000 rpm) the shaft is first routed through a reduction box.

The power generated by the MGU would then be stored into a supercapacitor capable of quickly storing and releasing energy on demand. The power would then be put back into the turbo to spool it back up, eliminating the lag inherent in a single turbo setup. Additionally, overall efficiency improved by 10%. Furthermore, the car was able to move short distances on electric power alone, allowing quiet exits from the pits.

Supercapcitors systems were subsequently used in Toyota's Supra HV-R GT Hybrid in 2007, and the subsequent TS030 Hybrid LMP1 in 2012, and the EER-system found a home in Formula 1 starting in 2014. Though the technology was patented by YGK in 2011, it was never actually applied in racing by Tokai University, as the Race Engineering program refocused on Formula Student and solar cars.

The Tokai-UNIV Jaguar XJR-15 YGK Power Study Car was one of the strangest machines to ever grace a university campus. The car was conceived as a road going homage to a Le Mans-winning sports racer, then paraded around in front of Formula One audiences, and left to the super rich at the cusp of a a financial recession.

After being largely overshadowed by the XJ220's controversy, and falling into a void after the devaluation of the supercar market shortly after, one chassis somehow found itself in the hands of a crack team of Japanese engineering students.

The Study Car arriving in Australia.

The Study Car arriving in Australia.

The super refugee was then fitted with an engine derived by its spiritual successor, and served as a test mule for a car which would tackle the race that spawned it. After successfully ironing out the YR40T engine's faults, the car helped develop a groundbreaking hybrid energy recovery system.

Chassis 019 undergoing an arduous restoration period.

Chassis 019 undergoing an arduous restoration period.

After the car had finally outlived its usefulness, Australian car enthusiast and professional restorer Jordan Roddy of Bespoke Motors seized the opportunity to buy the orphaned Jag. He brought the car home, and started a long and tough restoration process in his Moorabbin workshop.

Chassis 019 fully restored.

Chassis 019 fully restored.

After countless long days and nights, the Big Cat was finally restored to its full former glory in December of 2015. The car was subsequently sold on to Gossford Classic Car Museum near Sydney, where it was eventually offered for sale once again in February 2017, priced at 1,050.000 Australian dollars.

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Comments (4)

  • Another fascinating story, exceptionally written. Thanks a lot to for reposting it over to my tribe :)

      1 year ago
    • Should add "professional Dylan reposter" next to "amateur article writer" 😂😂😂

        1 year ago
  • What a story, and even better redaction as usual!

      1 year ago
  • Fascinating story. If Major Tom would have known about this, I guess he would have been proud of those students!

      1 year ago
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