1991 Jaguar XJR-15
12-cyl. 5993cc/450hp FI
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The Jaguar XJR-15 was the brainchild of Tom Walkinshaw, founder of legendary race team Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR), and produced by its subsidiary, Jaguar Sport. In essence, the car was a road-going version of the XJR-9 that had won the 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours. It was also the first carbon-fiber and Kevlar car, beating out the 1993 McLaren F1. The XJR-15’s aerodynamic body, which surrounded the Tony Southgate-designed tub, was styled by Peter Stevens.
Walkinshaw originally thought of calling the model the R9-R, and though it was based on the Le Mans racer, a few concessions were made to make it at least semi-streetable—at least for die-hard racers like Derrick Warwick, Bob Wollek and Vern Schuppan, who ended up owning one. Stevens widened the cockpit three inches and raised the roof an inch and a half, but otherwise the production XJR-15 was almost as bare bones as the competition model. A true racing prototype for the road, it was similar in concept and layout to the Koenig/Porsche C62, a road-going version of the 962 prototype racer.
The Jaguar XJR-15 featured a 450-bhp, 5.3-liter, DOHC V-12 that allowed for a 0-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed limited to 191 mph. The engine also featured electronic fuel injection and “fly by wire” throttle. It was fitted with a six-speed crash box, with a five-speed synchromesh gearbox available as an option. Jaguar Sport also built at least five XJR-15 LM versions with a 700-bhp, 7.4-liter V-12. All were sold to buyers in Japan. These LM cars can be recognized by a front splitter, bigger rear wing, and air intake on the roof to help cool the motor.
Ultimately, only 53 XJR-15s were built, and the $960,165 price tag meant that many were purchased by billionaire collectors like the Sultan of Brunei. The XJR-15 was built from 1990 to 1992 and was officially launched at Silverstone in early 1991. It weighed about the same as a Volkswagen Golf and was designed to comply with Group C regulations. Not surprisingly, Jaguar launched a three-race series specifically for the model. The Jaguar Sport Intercontinental Race Challenge was run as a support race to the 1991 Formula One season at Monaco, Silverstone, and Spa.
Sixteen XJR-15s were entered in each of the events and wealthy non-driving owners hired hot shoes to compete for them. The races turned out to be closely fought, and were very popular with spectators. Derrick Warwick won at Monaco, Juan Manuel Fangio II at Silverstone and Armin Hahne won the final event at Spa, claiming the $1 million prize.
Jaguar withdrew from sports car racing in 1994 and Nissan approached Walkinshaw about using the XJR-15 tub for their own R390 Le Mans 24 Hours contender. Nissan widened the chassis, used different front and rear bodywork and their own suspension. All four Nissans finished in the Top 10 at the 1998 Le Mans race, in third, fifth, sixth, and tenth places. The XJR-15 was effectively succeeded by the tamer but more civilized and usable twin-turbo XJ 220, of which 300 were built between 1991 and 1993.