Martin Brundle's favourite car made him cry after driving it
Martin Brundle has had as varied a career in motorsport as just about anyone, straddling everything from County Challenge BMW E30s to Williams and McLaren machines in Formula 1. And yet it was his time during the heyday of sportscar racing that yielded his greatest drive, whilst under the umbrella of Tom Walkinshaw Racing.
Brundle drove for TWR for 12 years on and off (1979-1991) and was very much a trusted 'go-to' driver for the team. And although his biggest achievements will have been 24 hour wins at Daytona (1988) and Le Mans (1990), Brundle confesses that the greatest drive and the best car he has ever driven was TWR's 1991 World Sportscar Championship entrant, the Jaguar XJR-14.
Designed by up-and-coming F1 engineer Ross Brawn, the XJR-14 was the result of Bernie Ecclestone's enforced 3.5-litre naturally aspirated Formula in endurance racing, forcing the big manufacturers to lean towards F1 tech. The Jag therefore was essentially a closed-wheel Formula 1 car, using the 3.5-litre Ford V8 from the Benetton B190, pushrod suspension straight from F1 and an aero package that meant it could quite easily keep up with the F1 cars of its time.
Brawn himself described the XJR-14 as "a two-seat Formula 1 car with bodywork", with its huge Venturi tunnels and a 650bhp output at 11,500rpm. Brundle drove it at the Silverstone round of the 1991 World Sportscar Championship, coming third behind another XJR-14 and a Sauber-Mercedes. Retrospectively, he has stated that "I drove the XJR-14 and it was probably the best car I have ever driven, and Silverstone the best race I have ever driven, come to that."
"I remember lapping the works Mercedes and the works Peugeot, and at the end of it I involuntarily cried! I couldn't say why, the emotion just got to me."
"The 14 was so good, had so much downforce I could do anything with it. It would go flat-out around Becketts, and I went around Schumacher on the outside round Becketts. And I remember laughing at Monza at the amount of grip it had, on slicks in the rain."
So despite stints at Tyrrell, Zakspeed, Williams, Brabham, Benetton, Ligier, McLaren and Jordan, Brundle has the Jaguar sportscar at the top of his racing portfolio. And despite dicing with the likes of Ayrton Senna in Formula 3 and Formula 1 he hails his time in the XJR-14 at Silverstone as his greatest stint behind a wheel, showing just how capable the top level sportscars were at the tail end of the Group C era.
Now, time for LMP1 to get a grip of itself.