The Jaguar XJR-15 is celebrating its 30th anniversary along with the Jaguar Intercontinental Challenge. To celebrate these two momentous events, a special track tribute will take place on all three days of The Classic at Silverstone this year.
The 1991 Jaguar Intercontinental Challenge is regarded by many to be the ultimate one-make race series, while others claimed that it was just an £8m banger race. What is agreed upon though is that it was one of the most astonishing motorsport spectacles ever created.
In 1991, 16 beautiful Jaguar XJR-15s, each priced at £500,000, lined up for three exceptional showdowns supporting Grands Prix at Silverstone, Monaco, and Spa. The victor of the final round claiming an impressive £1m jackpot prize.
The XJR-15 has always considered the Silverstone as its spiritual home. The supercars were locally constructed in Bloxham by JaguarSport in a joint venture between Tom Walkinshaw Racing and Jaguar. The official public launch of the model was also performed at the circuit.
The showdown at Silverstone itself was quite memorable. The event happened after Nigel Mansell’s exciting victory in the British Grand Prix, and the Jaguars gave an even more electrifying finish to the outstanding weekend.
It was a surprisingly eventful race filled with thrills and spills that by the finish, only five of the 16 immaculate Mauritius Blue entries were unscathed. After an eventful 20 laps, Juan Manuel Fangio II claimed victory, exactly 45 years after his legendary uncle also claimed his last Formula 1 victory at the same circuit.
To honor the memorable race, the top three XJR-15 finishers, which were driven by Fangio, Bob Wolleck, and Ian Flux, will be returning to Silverstone for daily demonstration laps at The Classic.
July 14, 1991, Sunday, was a day that Flux will always remember. He recalled:
“Being the only Brit on the podium, I was given a hero’s welcome from all the hundreds of Mansell fans who’d stayed on to watch the Jaguars race. Hearing them all singing ‘Fluxie’ will forever be one of my everlasting memories. So now, 30 years on, it will be very, very special for me to be back at Silverstone with those same three XJR-15s at The Classic.”
Adding to the three podium finishers will be several other combatants from the Jaguar Intercontinental Challenge, and the R9R project prototype, as well as other road-registered XJR-15s.
Some members of the Walkinshaw family and the original staff from the Bloxham facility will also be having a reunion at a special display in the International Paddock at Silverstone.
The XJR-15 is normally remembered as a race car, but originally it was designed as a two-seater sports car – a road-going version of the XJR-9 Group C prototype which was the 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours winner.
The XJR-15 features a mid-mounted, normally aspirated, 6-liter V12 engine, a Tony Southgate designed monocoque chassis and bodywork that was exquisitely sculpted by Peter Stevens. Both the body and chassis were constructed from carbon fiber and Kevlar making the XJR-15 the first road car in the world to be made entirely from composite materials.
Jaguar planned only a limited production run of 50 units though there were rumors that a couple more left through Bloxham’s backdoor.
The XJR-15 has a top speed of almost 200mph and limited downforce, with grip never being one of its strong points.
In early 1991, Tiff Needell was one of the first to give the XJR-15 a run while it was being tested at Silverstone for BBC Top Gear. He stated that the handling of the car was “exciting, to say the least.” He also correctly predicted that the three Grand Prix tracks would have a lot of slides when the 16 racers were to be let loose on the track.
Needell also joined the fun, recording a seventh-place finish at Monte Carlo, sixth at Silverstone, while he had a disappointing 13th place at the Spa finale. His #5 XJR-15, and Needell himself, will be returning to Silverstone for The Classic, as Needell will be co-presenting the event for ITV4 television.
“Those races were wild. With a big V12 lump and very little aero, the cars were really iffy when on the limit in traffic. Even the very top drivers like Derek Warwick struggled. They weren’t for the faint-hearted that’s for sure.”