On this day in… 1988

12th June 2017
Henry Hope-Frost

It had been more than three decades since British sportscar manufacturer Jaguar had last triumphed in the world’s greatest test of automotive endurance, the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Back in 1957, the Ecurie Ecosse D-Type of Ivor Bueb and Ron Flockhart led home a Jaguar 1-2-3-4 for the marque’s fifth win in seven years.

Fast forward to 1988 and after four previous attempts at snaring a sixth win at La Sarthe, two with Bob Tullius’s Group 44 squad and two with Tom Walkinshaw’s factory-blessed Silk Cut Group C effort, Jaguar headed to France with five of the seven-litre V12 XJR-9 LM racers desperate to end a seven-year rout by arch-rival Porsche.

After the German giant had dominated qualifying, its trio of works 962Cs securing the first three places on the grid having wound up the boost on the flat-six turbo motors, The Big Cats would have their work cut out in the 56th Grand Prix d’Endurance. With the Sauber-Mercedes cars withdrawn before the race on tyre-safety grounds, it was all set to be an Anglo-German classic.

And so it proved. With a 50,000-strong British contingent, eager to see Jaguar make history, getting more and more animated and patriotic as the week went on, the race would become nip and tuck between the best of the two Group C big guns’ prototypes. 


Starting at the earlier time of 3pm due to the French elections, the field began the twice-round-the-clock marathon with the Porsches and Jaguars leading the way. Over the next 24 hours, plenty of dramas would befall the leading runners. 

It was the #2 Jaguar of ex-Grand Prix racers Johnny Dumfries and Jan Lammers and race rookie Andy Wallace that blended just the right pace and reliability to take a famous win, the trio surviving a late scare when the car became stuck in fourth gear. Dutchman Lammers had to hold it in gear and hope for the best during much of his final stint. The story goes that when the back of the gearbox was removed at TWR’s Oxfordshire base the following week, its contents spilled out onto the workshop floor.

The #17 Porsche of Derek Bell/Klaus Ludwig/Hans-Joachim Stuck was the best of the Porsches and the team will have been ruing Ludwig’s failure to pit at the right time earlier in the race. The resulting time lost was significant when you remember that it finished the race less than three minutes behind the winning Jaguar. A then-record-equalling sixth win for Briton Bell, a fourth success for Ludwig and a hat-trick for Stuck had been so close.

But British fans got to celebrate in a big way as Jaguar orchestrated a formation finish for its three classified XJR-9 LMs – the winning car, the fourth-placed machine of Kevin Cogan/Derek Daly/Larry Perkins and the 16th-placed Price Cobb/Davy Jones/Danny Sullivan car.


The jubilant scenes at the finish line as thousands of Union Flag-waving fans invaded the circuit have gone into Le Mans folklore, as has the reception the winning trio received on the podium, with team chief Tom Walkinshaw and Jaguar boss Sir John Egan.

Two of the Jaguars failed to make the finish, the #3 car of Raul Boesel/Henri Pescarolo/John Watson suffering gearbox failure after 129 laps and the #1 car of Martin Brundle/John Nielsen losing a head gasket after 306 laps. Porsche, meanwhile, lost one of its red-and-yellow factory 962Cs, the Vern Schuppan/Sarel van der Merwe/Bob Wollek car, to engine failure at the 192-lap mark.

Le Mans 24 Hours, 1988

1 Johnny Dumfries (GB)/Jan Lammers (NL)/Andy Wallace (GB) – TWR Jaguar XJR-9 LM, 394 laps

2 Derek Bell (GB)/Klaus Ludwig (D)/Hans-Joachim Stuck (D) – Porsche AG Porsche 962C, +2m36s

3 Stanley Dickens (DK)/Frank Jelinski (D)/‘John Winter’ (D) – Joest Racing Porsche 962C, 385 laps

4 Kevin Cogan (USA)/Derek Daly (IRL)/Larry Perkins (AUS) – TWR Jaguar XJR-9 LM, 383 laps

5 David Hobbs (GB)/Frank Konrad (AUT)/Didier Theys (B) – Joest Racing Porsche 962C, 380 laps

6 John Andretti (USA)/Mario Andretti (USA)/Michael Andretti (USA) – Porsche AG Porsche 962C, 375 laps

Photography courtesy of LAT Images

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