Jaguar is a brand strongly linked to Le Mans. Victories came in 1951 and 1953 with theC-Type, then in 1955, 1956 and 1957 with the D-Type. In 1982, a successful relationship with Tom Walkinshaw’s TWR team commenced with the XJ-S competing in the European Touring Car Championship, which it won in 1984. But in the mid-1980s TWR started designing and preparing a Jaguar V12-engined Group C car for the World Sports Prototype Championship. The team started winning regularly from 1987, and won Le Mans in 1988 and 1990 with the XJR series sports cars. The Jaguar XJR-14 was the last of the XJRs to win, taking the 1991 World Sportscar Championship.

From 1990 to 1992, Tom Walkinshaw Racing decided to build an hypercar based mechanically on the Le Mans-winning Jaguar XJR-9. The car was conceived as a concept in 1988, following Jaguar’s success at Le Mans, enlisting Peter Stevens to develop a road-going version of the XJR-9, originally designated as R-9R. A number of wealthy racing enthusiasts, like Derek Warwick, Bob Wollek, Vern Schuppan, Matt Aitken, Andy Evans and the Sultan of Brunei, were keen to own such a car and pressed Walkinshaw into manufacturing a ‘road going racer’. 

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The XJ15 was explicitly developed as a road-going racing car, in the mould of the Jaguar C and D types, the Ford GT40 and the Ferrari 250 GTO. As such, the car complied with British construction and use regulations and could be registered by the owner for road-use in the UK, although with such a limited production run, the car was never type approved.

In order to adapt the XJR-9 for road use, Stevens made a number of modifications to increase space and improve access. In this sense, Stevens explained that “Taking the race car as a base, we widened the cockpit by 75 mm and raised the roof by 40 mm to allow more headroom. The scale model was ready by Easter 1989, from there we went to clay…which was finished by October (1989). The first prototype was held up by Le Mans preparations but it was ready for Tom Walkinshaw to drive when he came back from France in July 1990.”

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The beast was powered by a 450 hp (336 kW), naturally aspirated 24-valve V12 engine of 5993 cc, with a Group C bottom-end and Group A top-end. The engine features an advanced electronically managed fuel injection system with a very advanced, for its time, ‘fly by wire’ throttle. The Transmission was TWR 6-speed manual, unsynchronized transmission (a 5-speed, synchromesh transmission was also available as an optional extra). So, the heart of the car was directly the LeMans winning engine from the XJ9.

The chassis and bodywork were build with carbon fibre and Kevlar, being the XJR-15 the first road-going car built entirely of Carbon and Kevlar composites, even before the McLaren F1 used similar techniques in 1992. The car was designed to comply with Group C regulations, being 480 cm long, 190 cm wide and 110 cm high. With only 1,050 kg it weighed the same as a contemporary VW Golf.

The suspension was fully independent, with non-adjustable Bilstein shock absorbers all round. Front suspension was by wide-based wishbones, working push-rods to spring damper units mounted horizontally across the centre of the car. TWR racing practice was also followed at the rear, with vertical coil-springs mounted in units with uprights within the rear wheels, allowing for the maximum possible venturi tunnels. The engine forms a stressed member for the rear-frame. The bottom of the car is completely flat, in line with Group C practice. The steel brake discs were stopped by powerful AP four-pot callipers.

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The “Jag” XJR-15 could accelerate from 0 to 100km/h in 4 seconds with a (gearing limited) top speed of 307 km/h.

Jaguar decided to price the car at around €1 million. In today’s money, that would make it more expensive than a Bugatti Chiron. 

Nowadays, XJR-15s sell for around €300,000 to €500.000. That’s a lot more of the price that is being asked for a XJ220, with some examples closer to the €250,000 range. By comparison, the Ferrari F50 – priced similarly to the XJ220 when it came out in 1995 – typically trades between 1€ milion to 2€milion, but… It’s a Ferrari. I’ll be so content with an XJ15!

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