This XJR-15 was a million-dollar ride

10th March 2022
Ethan Jupp

A curious cat, is the Jaguar XJR-15. To appearances, a sleek, sexy supercar from the era that gave us the McLaren F1, Ferrari F50 and Bugatti EB110. In reality, a road-going refugee of Le Mans with as many designs on racing as it had road use. Grand prizes and seven-figure cheques leant the Jaguar Intercontinental Challenge real stakes; a Hollywood-esque mythos, that, along with that howling V12, assured the XJR-15’s place in the pantheon of all-time great one-make racers.


The series served as F1’s support act for Monaco, Silverstone and Spa, with a big cash prize at the end of $1 million for the win in Belgium. That’s $1 million in 1991, we might add. Of course, money attracts talent, so some of racing’s top names at the time were gunning for a healthy payday via an XJR-15 seat, including Derek Warwick, Tiff Needell, David Brabham and Juan Manuel Fangio II. 

When it came to that last round though, it was Nürburgring, Spa and Bathurst-winner Armin Hahne that would prove to be the million-dollar man. Hahne was here at Goodwood for the 78th Members’ Meeting in October 2021 to drive his winning car among its peers for the first time since he took that fruitful victory three decades previous. We met him for a chat as the weekend was winding down. Matter of fact but funny and laid-back, Armin seemed to enjoy regaling tales of his experiences in those races.

“I got involved because a friend of mine bought two cars of the XJR-15 – one for the road and one racer – and he asked me to drive in the series,” he says.

“We did three races in the Jaguar Intercontinental Challenge. The first race was in Monaco, after just a short test in Silverstone. I was second next to Derek Warwick in the qualifying but nearly spun, so finished fourth. The next was at Silverstone, where I had an engine issue and only finished seventh.”


Hahne was best known at the time for his touring car drives, with two Spa 24 wins under his belt in 1982 and 1983 in a BMW and the Bathurst 1,000 in 1985 in a Jaguar. It’s this experience that he insists stood him in better stead than the high downforce sensibilities of the others, along with a shrewd tyre strategy and his winning experience in the Ardenne.

“Then, the final race was in Spa – that was the one for the million dollars,” he continues.

“For the first two races, the winner got an XJRS Convertible. For the Spa race, it was first $1 million and for second, nothing. I was racing against some F1 drivers – David Brabham, Derek Warwick, Tiff Needell. Most of them came from F1 and Group C, so they were used to a lot of downforce. I came from tin-tops, which I did all my life, so I had a small advantage of being used to less grip. Also, I like Spa very much, it’s my second favourite after the Nordschleife.

“We had two sets of slicks for each event. I used only one set for both qualifying sessions, which I came fourth, while the others used one for each. That meant I had fresh tyres for the race. For me it was quite easy – I was astonished – to overtake the three in front of me. After I was in the lead, I was a little bit nervous, because they told us before they wouldn’t tell us how many laps it was, to stop ‘arrangements’ on the last corner. I was just doing lap after lap, waiting for them, keeping consistent until they dropped the flag.”


GRR: It must have been a spectacular feeling. You say it was easy – was this the easiest million dollars anyone has ever won?

“Stocks and shares, it may be easier. But that was an easy million for me racing on that day. When we were in Monaco, we came back after the race in the bus and Derek Warwick smelled of champagne – from winning that race – and he said ‘Oh look Armin, on Monday, I go driving in my new Jaguar with my three girlfriends and I’ll have a nice day'. Then, we had Silverstone, and Spa and it was exactly the same. I came back with the champagne with the big cheque and he came back, having gone off in the race, and I said ‘Look Derek, on Monday I’ll buy ten XJSs, invite all my friends to have a nice drive in the afternoon and still have $500,000 in my bank account.’ Just a joke, we are still friends.”

GRR: Sweet, sweet revenge. On the prize money, I’ve heard and read rumours of deals with certain drivers, to share the money out should they win? 

“There were rumours going on. As it is with rumours, no one knows who started them, or what is right or what is wrong. You have to bear in mind that every race driver is really selfish. If you’re not selfish you won’t win anything. When you’re out there and maybe gunning for the win, racing instinct takes over.”


GRR: We’ve read this is one of your favourite wins of your career?

“Certainly the best-payed win. It was really nice but I also won in Spa 24 Hours, in Bathurst, at Nürburgring 24 Hours. This was the biggest prize money and that was the attraction. To say it was my best win? I had a lot of fun, but no.”

GRR: Have you driven it since you won?

“This weekend was the first time since the win. When I jumped in to check the seat, the smell was exactly the same. From the carbon, from brakes. 

“When I drove it and looked through the big windscreen, I remembered my last lap in Spa. The owner of that car wore a wig, a toupee, so when I crossed the line, I saw through that big windscreen, I saw the black shadow of somebody throwing something. 

“Whenever Colin Chapman won, in the 1970s, he’d throw his cap. He did the same but threw his toupee. I wasn’t sure at the time but when I came back round I asked ‘was it really his toupee?’ and they said ‘Yes, he did that. We now have to go and search for it as he doesn’t want to go home bald!’. He was very happy of course.”


GRR: *Struggling to gather ourselves from laughing* What is it like to drive? We hear conflicting opinions.

“I had a lot of fun. You can go sideways anytime you want. The conflicting opinions came from some English drivers I think as they’re used to a lot of downforce. Although it has a carbon tub and was state of the art, it’s not like a Group C car. It’s more like a GT car. If they didn’t like it, it was maybe more down to that they were not quick enough and that’s why they were complaining. A good race driver has to adapt to any car. When I drove in Group C in the Jaguars, I had to learn a lot, to trust the downforce, but I never said it was a bad car. I just learned. If they say it’s nice or bad, it’s determined by their results.”

GRR: Did you press on driving it this weekend?

“Of course, you have to stay concentrated, it’s easy to make small mistakes. If you lift off at speed, over crests, it can be difficult, but it was smooth and it went well.”

GRR: The only difference is you weren’t handed a million-buck cheque when you got out! That must have been slightly disappointing. Thanks for the chat and congrats on the win all those years ago. We hope you invested wisely!

“Aha, yes. 30 years! It’s all spent now.”


Images by Pete Summers, Joe Harding, Tom Shaxson, Toby Adamson and Motorsport Images.

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