Jaguar returns to the starting grid at Le Mans on June 12, as the stunning XKR GT2 sports car lines up alongside the world’s leading endurance racers for the classic 24-hour event. As Jaguar celebrates its 75th anniversary of building and racing cars, it is fitting that the British marque returns to competition at the circuit where it earned seven race wins between 1951 and 1990.
Mike O’Driscoll, Managing Director of Jaguar Cars said, “Motorsport has always been important to Jaguar. Our domination of Le Mans in the 1950s was a foundation stone in our history and our success in the late ’80s and early ’90s reinforced our reputation as one of the great sports car manufacturers.
“As we look to the future with our new range of high performance ‘R’-branded cars – the XKR and XFR – we aim to make the Jaguar brand synonymous with motorsports once again. It’s good to be back”
XKR GT2 Racer Shares Road Car Technology
The XKR GT2 racer competing at Le Mans is being run by JaguarRSR, and shares many of the basic components and technologies with the road-going XKR. Jointly developed by Jaguar’s engineering and design groups and the RSR team, the racer features the road car’s lightweight aluminium body structure and a tuned version of its 5.0-litre supercharged AJ133 V8 engine developing in excess of 500 horsepower.
Drivers Marc Goossens, Ryan Dalziel and Paul Gentilozzi will be piloting the car during the punishing 24-hour race, having gained initial experience with the vehicle during the American Le Mans Series events earlier during 2010.
Belgian driver Goossens is vastly experienced in sportscar racing, and has competed at Le Mans on nine previous occasions.
“As a sportscar driver, the Le Mans 24 Hour race provides the greatest challenge, so competing in the American Le Mans Series events has provided valuable training,” he commented. “It is a great honour to be selected as one of the drivers for Jaguar’s return to Le Mans.”
Teammate Dalziel, born in Scotland, brings extensive experience in single-seaters and sportscars, but is racing at Le Mans for the first time.
“It has always been my dream to compete at Le Mans, and, as a British driver, to be at the wheel of a Jaguar makes it even more special,” explained Dalziel. “It will be without doubt the highlight of my racing career.”
The trio of drivers is completed by the American Paul Gentilozzi, one of the principal partners of the JaguarRSR team, who is making his third appearance at Le Mans in the GT2 class.
“It is great to return to Le Mans after 15 years, and I look forward to the chance to drive there again,” said Gentilozzi. “The track is like no other in the world. It is a challenge to every driver, but I know I have exceptionally talented team-mates, and we will do the best we can out there in the XKR GT2 with race number 81!”
Jaguar Heritage at Le Mans
The names of Jaguar and Le Mans are inextricably linked. With a total of seven wins between 1951 and 1990, the marque is the single most successful British car maker in the history of the race.
During the 1950s, Jaguar’s founder Sir William Lyons sought to prove his cars were as fast and as strong as far more expensive rivals, with legends such as Stirling Moss and Mike Hawthorn behind the wheel of the iconic C-type and D-type racers.
In 1951, the C-type won Le Mans at its first attempt, with a further victory in 1953. Its successor the D-type took Le Mans wins in 1955, 1956 and 1957. Technical innovations such as the C-type’s disc brakes made their debut on Jaguars at Le Mans, and were rapidly adopted by car makers the world over.
After a two-decade absence, Jaguar returned to France with a works team in the late 1980s and once again took race wins in 1988, with the V12-powered XJR-9LM Group C car, and in 1990, with the XJR-12, featuring drivers including Johnny Dumfries and Martin Brundle. Such was the success of the XJR racers, that Jaguar was crowned World Sports Car Champions three times in five seasons.