What do this title winning Jaguar and this Le Mans winning Porsche have in common?
Answer: They are the same car.
It may not look like it and at the time it was strenuously denied, but the truth is this: Teo Fawn 1991 World Championship-Winning Jaguar XJR-14 and Reinhold Joest’s double Le Mans-Winning Porsche WSC95 are, under the skin, one and the same. Gary Watkins reports
We all know that there is only one individual sportscar in history to not only claim a World Championship but also Le Mans not once but twice. The story of the John Wyer Gulf GT40 and how it won the ’68 manufacturers’ crown for Ford with the first of back-to-back victories in the French enduro is part of racing legend.
But we are all wrong. There is another car, another individual chassis which did it again rather more recently. And the reason the tale of the lone machine to match the Ford’s achievements is only just emerging? The car won the World Championship as a Jaguar, and both of its Le Mans as a Porsche.
The Porsche WSC95 that won Le Mans with Joest in 1996-97 was built around the same chassis as the Jaguar XJR-14 in which Teo Fabi claimed the drivers’ honours in the 1991 World Sports-Prototype Championship. Not an identical tub design, but the actual monocoque into which Fabi was strapped for all seven sprint races that season.
No one doubted the Porsche had its roots in the XJR-14, the last of TWR’s Jaguar Group C designs. After all, the WSC95 had been built in the British motorsport conglomerate’s North American headquarters in Valparaiso. It was from here that the Fl-engined Jags had enjoyed a briefly successful final fling in IMSA GTP during 1992.
The new car relied on TWR technology’, according to both partners in the project. At the time Tony Dowe, the brains behind the project, said “You can’t just take a normally-aspirated XJR-14 and turn it into an open-top turbo car,” One of TVVR boss Tom Walkinshaw’s most trusted subaltems, he continued, “this is a new design. Period.”
Six years on, the key players in the project are willing to come clean and admit the Porsche was a recycled Jaguar. That goes for Dowe and Herbert Ampferer, whose reign as Porsche motorsport boss began just as the WSC95 project was getting going. The latter says he has no doubt his board was fully aware of the history of the car when the project was signed off.
The WSC95 was born out of an ultimatum delivered to Dowe by his boss in July 1994. Sent back to the States after a short stint reorganising the Ligier Fl team, Dowe was given just six weeks to find a project to keep Valparaiso in business.
“I walked around the workshop and the only thing we had was an XJR-14.I thought it would make a lovely car for IMSA’s new World Sports Car class,” he recalls. “I knew we could turn it into an open car, but I didn’t know where we were going to get an engine for it. The logical one was Porsche, but everyone said it would be impossible.”
Not that he let that stop him from putting in a call to Porsche’s competitions boss in the US, Alwin Springer. “I phoned Alwin and said we’d built a WSC car and we’d like a Porsche engine. He didn’t believe me, but I’d done some shots of a mocked-up car and made sure they were suitably blurred. It was a real smoke and mirrors job.
“Alwin said there might be a chance, and sent me a dummy engine. Max Welti [then in charge of motorsport at Porsche] was coming to the US, so we rushed around, made it look like a real car and painted it in grey primer. That freaked Alwin because he thought we were taking the piss, as though it were some kind of `panzerwagen’.”
Weki went back to Germany and, within weeks, XJR-14 chassis number 691, was on the way to becoming WSC95-001. In the autumn came the announcement of a two-car assault on not only on the following year’s Le Mans 24 Hours but the US enduros at Daytona and Sebring. Porsche was joining forces with the very team that brought its domination of the Group C sportscar racing to an end in the 1980s.
Two chassis — one converted Jaguar, one brand new — ended up fifth and sixth at Daytona’s pre-race test amid allegations of sandbagging. IMSA may have allowed turbocharged cars into the WSC class for the first time, but it had reserved the right to tinker with the rulebook prior to the race. Dowe concedes the TWR-Porsches didn’t show their hand at Daytona in early January for that very reason. “We were sandbagging. Big time,” he says.
That wasn’t enough to stop IMSA slapping performance penalties on the WSC95s two weeks before the race. A reduction in the size of the air-restrictor would have robbed the WSC95s of 80bhp, while they would also have had to carry 40kg of ballast.
Porsche’s response was an immediate withdrawal from the race. Ampferer admits the decision was made on principle. “Rule changes a fortnight before a race are something a manufacturer like Porsche cannot accept,” he explains.
The irony is one of the WSC95s would almost certainly have won. Ferrari’s 333SP proved fast but fragile during its first Daytona, which left the way open for a car subject to the same penalties as the factory Porsches. The Kremer Porsche team’s 962-based K8 prototype plugged around Daytona a long way from the Italian cars’ pace, but come the final flag it came through as the clear winner.
A museum piece had won Daytona, and that’s exactly what the WSC95s looked set to become when it emerged Porsche wouldn’t be going to Le Mans either. “If we didn’t have the chance to develop the car in the US races we wouldn’t have been as prepared as we would have liked for Le Mans,” says Ampferer. “The other side of the story was that Porsche was struggling financially at that time.”
Before the year was out Porsche was back in the black, and a new 911-based GT1 contender was under development to take the fight to McLaren’s all-conquering F1 GTR. The WSC95 would probably have stayed unraced but the old fox of sportscar racing, Reinhold Joest
Sitting behind Horst Marchart, the Porsche board member with responsibility for motorsport, at the Stuttgart marque’s end-of-season awards ceremony, Joest had an idea. “I asked Herr Marchart what he was going to do with those cars,” remembers the 63 year-old. “I said to him: ‘Would you be interested in renting me them for Le Mans. I think I can win the race for Porsche.’ Just one week later, we had a meeting and did a deal.”
The car may have been entered by Joest, but the team was a semifactory effort alongside the Stuttgart marque’s two-car squad of 911 GT1s. The WSC95 went into Porsche’s wind tunnel to rid the car of the understeer that had plagued it during its initial runs.
Then came Le Mans. Ampferer remembers a “fantastic race between two Porsche-designed cars”. Pierluigi Martini qualified WSC95-002 on pole, but it was chassis number one that took the fight to the Porsches. Sportscar old hands Davy Jones and Manuel Reuter and future Formula One star Alex Wurz were more than able to match the pace of the factory cars. Rather more surprising was that they could eke 12 laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe from their 80-line fuel tank, just one less than the GT1s managed on 100 litres.
But it was a near-faultless run that sealed victory for Joest Over 24 hours it was delayed by one trifling problem. “We were worried because there was quite a lot of oil smoke,” remembers team manager Ralfluttner. “But all that had happened was the catch tank had broken away from its support.”
Juttner remembers two “lucky years” at Le Mans in 1996-97. Twelve months later, WSC95-001 would have even fewer problems. Former Ferrari F1 team-mates Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson and Dane Tom Kristensen drove Joeses solo entry on the limit right through the race. This time, a loose bonnet was the only hiccough.
It wasn’t enough, though, to keep the car on the same lap as the Evolution version of the 911 GT1. But when an oil leak and subsequent fire burnt out the leading works car, the old prototype Porsche swept through to victory.
It was a bitter blow for the Porsche factory squad, because this time Joest was competing against its wishes. The deal with Marchart in 1996 allowed Joest to keep the winning car if it delivered Porsche its 14th Le Mans victory and then Ampferer announced in November that there would be no parts supplied to any teams running Porsche prototype chassis in 1997. He didn’t mention Joest by name, but the implication was clear. The reigning Le Mans winner was forced to source its parts from former TWR suppliers and further develop the car without Porsche’s resources. That doesn’t stop Joest believing his plans to defend his crown were supported in some parts of the company. “I was a little upset that the door was closed, but I don’t think it was the idea of the top management,” he says.
The Joest squad may have overcome the barriers placed by Porsche, but it almost tripped itself up in attempt to repeat the team’s first Le Mans double, achieved in 1984-85. Victory in ’96 gave Joest a guaranteed place in the following year’s event. Joest assumed this meant it didn’t have to do the relevant paperwork. Only when this writer, a day after the closing date, asked Juttner if he had entered was the mistake realised. The team manager telephoned the race’s organiser, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, immediately and managed to secure its place.
“I don’t know why they said yes,” says Juttner. “Vie heard that there were different opinions within Le Mans. I understand that some people weren’t happy about the big car manufacturers being beaten.”
A year later, Joest and its double race-winner had been reassimilated into one of those manufacturer squads. Porsche was going all out for victory in its 50th anniversary year and hatched a plan to update the two ageing WSC95s with revised bodywork and the complete rear end from its new 911 GT1-98.
The project proved a disaster. The revised cars hit the track late and were never fully sorted. Things went from bad to worse on the morning of the race when a tweak to their front body was declared illegal. The hastily-modified cars made little impact and both went out of the race during the hours of darkness.
Joest’s warhorse would race twice more that year. Johansson and Martini won a minor race at Doningtion, and then the car was second, now using its original rear end, in the Petit Le Mans 1000-mile race at Road Atlanta with Johansson, Alboreto and Jorg Muller driving.
From there, WSC95-001 went to the place it had been threatened with so many times before, both as a Porsche and a Jaguar — the museum. And don’t doubt it is Reinhold Joest’s private collection which will prove the final resting place of one of the most successful and most controversial sportscars of all time.
“That car is my favourite,” says Herr Joest “It is not for sale.”