For many sportscar racing fans, the Group C era of the 1980s was the greatest in the long-distance discipline’s rich and well-loved history. Reaction to the news that the 73rd Members’ Meeting at Goodwood would feature high-speed demonstrations by an assortment of these slippery, 240mph rocketships certainly seemed to confirm as much.
Group C will always be remembered as a glorious, boom-before-bust decade played out by big-name brands all keen to prove their technical acumen, via the long, hard races that made up the World Sportscar Championship and its mix of 1000km ‘sprints’ and 24-hour marathons. And the roster of top drivers, many of them with Formula 1 pedigree, spread throughout the factory teams and, in many cases, equally effective privateer squads only added to the appeal. More than two decades after the series’ demise, it’s easy to see why the cars and their stars shared top billing.
The on-track appearances at the March 21-22 event – once each on Saturday and Sunday – will feature a stellar line-up of the most recognisable machines, all in their period liveries, that have been sourced for the occasion from factory museums and private collections. Come to Goodwood expecting to see Aston Martin, Jaguar, Lancia, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Porsche and Toyota kit given a good airing and you won’t be disappointed.
One name jumps out of that list, particularly for patriotic British race fans who followed its exploits on the world stage and made the pilgrimage to the biggest sportscar race of them all, the Le Mans 24 Hours: Jaguar. There are three of its ultra-successful racers confirmed for the demos and they’re bound to cause a stir. Each is riddled with provenance, so make sure you get up close to these big cats armed with your camera.
Owned by Christian Glaesel, a former historic F1 champion and experienced racer and collector, this particular car started life as an XJR-6, first appearing at Monza, the opening round of the 1986 WSCC, with Gianfranco Brancatelli and Jean-Louis Schlesser. Other notable accolades in its original guise that year included a third place at the Norisring WSCC round in Derek Warwick’s hands and a win for Eddie Cheever in the end-of-season ADAC Supersprint race at the Nürburgring.
Updated to XJR-8 spec for 1987, the car was raced sporadically by Martin Brundle and John Nielsen. Retirements at Silverstone, while the sister cars took a one-two, and Le Mans with engine failure signalled a disappointing season for this chassis.
The car’s final facelift came for 1988, when it became an XJR-9 – the first designation of Jaguar Group C racer to be used in both the WSCC and the US-based IMSA GTP equivalent. The uprated 7.0-litre V12 beast’s best result came at the big one, Le Mans, when Kevin Cogan, Derek Daly and Larry Perkins took fourth, albeit 11 laps behind the winning XJR-9 of Johnny Dumfries, Jan Lammers and Andy Wallace.
XJR-11 (main image)
Michael Tuke’s Tom Walkinshaw-built machine, fitted with the turbocharged, 3.5-litre V6 powerplant, is chassis number 490 that was raced throughout 1990 and ’91. Victory at home at Silverstone in 1990, courtesy of Martin Brundle and Alain Ferté, who led Jan Lammers and Andy Wallace home for a Jaguar one-two, must rank as its biggest win, with podium finishes at Monza and the Nürburgring also on its CV.
For 1991, the car found itself repainted in Suntec colours and shipped over to Japan to contest its domestic sportscar championship. Jeff Krosnoff, Mauro Martini shared the car, with John Nielsen joining them for the longer races. A sixth-place in the fifth round at Sugo for Krosnoff and Martini would prove to be its best result.
Chassis 891 currently resides in Peter Garrod’s stable and is one of few cars to race in Silk Cut WSCC colours and as a Bud Light-branded IMSA GTP challenger. In its WSCC guise, and with the trusty V12 in the back of course, it took fourth at Le Mans with John Nielsen, Andy Wallace and Derek Warwick on the driving strength.
For 1992 came the respray and the trip across the Atlantic. Its best results came in the two classic US enduros, with second in the Daytona 24 Hours thanks to David Brabham, Scott Goodyear, Davy Jones and Scott Pruett, and fourth in the Sebring 12 Hours with Brabham and Jones at the wheel.
Don’t be on the lookout for the distinctive red-white-and-blue Bud Light colours, though, for the car is now once again sporting its more traditional Silk Cut livery.