Thursday, 7 July 2016

Jaguar XJ13 is 50 years’ late

The 1966 Jaguar XJ13, conceived to continue Jaguar’s winning ways at the Le Mans 24 Hours, will finally make its debut this weekend at the legendary Circuit de la Sarthe, 50 years’ late.
A victim of timing and changing regulations, the XJ13 never raced in period despite its incredible pace, so the car’s entry at Le Mans Classic this weekend marks the fitting conclusion to one of Jaguar’s greatest historic cars, on its 50thanniversary.
With a now iconic lightweight aerodynamic body penned by Malcolm Sayer – the man behind Le Mans legends like the C-Type and D-Type – and a mid-mounted 5-litre V12 engine, the XJ13 had all the ingredients for Le Mans success.
Indeed, it set an unofficial closed lap record at Silverstone in 1967 with David Hobbs at the wheel, which stood until the McLaren F1 beat it by just 6 mile/h in 1999.
But in late 1967, with new Le Mans regulations on the way, limiting engine capacity to 3-litre, and a profitable XJ6 saloon to develop, Jaguar shelved XJ13 and moved the prototype into storage before it ever raced.
The next time it turned a wheel was in 1971 for a publicity shoot at test facility MIRA in Nuneaton, UK. With legendary Jaguar test driver, Norman Dewis, at the wheel, the XJ13 was seriously damaged in a crash in which Dewis was thankfully unharmed. It was rebuilt, and made its public debut in 1973 during the British Grand Prix.
Now heading back to the circuit for which it was created, the XJ13’s appearance at Le Mans Classic is just one part of a major Jaguar presence this year. This includes TV presenter Chris Harris racing the Jaguar Lightweight E-type continuation model (chassis number 15 and owned by Stratstone), a 100-car parade and a world record grid of 65 models competing across five classes in the Jaguar Classic Challenge. The XJ13 will be taking part in the parade, as some of the most legendary Jaguars ever roar around the iconic French circuit.

Meanwhile, the only Jaguar XK 140 FHC (above) to race in Le Mans race in 1956, and was erroneously black flagged, returns to the famous circuit 60 years later for a rematch at Le Mans Classic this weekend.
This XK140 was privately entered into the race and driven by Roger Walshaw and Peter Bolton in 1956, but it was erroneously disqualified while running in 11th place with 206 laps.
The car, recently restored and race prepared by restorers and Jaguar specialists Classic Motor Cars of Bridgnorth (CMC), is being taken back by its current owner Mr. Peter Neumark.
It will compete in the Grid 2 class for cars manufactured between 1949 and 1956 and also in the Jaguar Classic Challenge.
“The opportunity to restore the only Jaguar XK 140 to race in the 24hs of Le Mans 60 years ago was compelling,” said Neumark. “In 1956 this private entry car astounded the crowds and was running 11th in the 21st hour of the race when it was cruelly and wrongfully black flagged.
“The offer of a free entry from the ACO for the following year’s race was a scant recompense for what would have been at least a top ten finish, but the car never returned until now.”
Neumark added: “It is a privilege to take this car back to Le Mans and drive it in what will probably be my last competitive race on a circuit I love and where I won in 2010 in the Jaguar D-Type OKV1.”

Nick Goldthorp, managing director of CMC, said: “The car has been completely restored from the chassis up, covering every nut and bolt, and saving as much of the original vehicle as possible due to its prominent racing pedigree.” 

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