After viewing Eric Kent’s letter in the March edition of Motor Sport, I felt the urge to contact you with the details of what happened to the No40 Group 44 GTP Jaguar which I drove at Le Mans.
As far as Le Mans 1984 is concerned, here’s the story from a driver’s perspective.
I don’t recall the position of the car as eighth overall at 6.00am (as Mr Kent records), but I remember taking my turn in the car after a pitstop. The car was reported to have gearbox shifting problems, similar to the other car.
I had fresh tyres, with no scrubbing, and proceeded to warm them up and break them in. As I was approaching Tertre Rouge, the car started to understeer badly and crashed into the barrier.
The vehicle was damaged on the left front and the oil line to the engine was damaged. I tried to call the pits on the radio, but could not make contact, so I proceeded around the course idling in low gear. I finally got to the pits and the damage was assessed by the crew as repairable. But then the Jaguar VIPs decided the car should be withdrawn because they feared the engine would eventually give out.
Even though the car was driven slowly around the course, the oil level was greatly reduced. There was no apparent damage to the engine, nor was there a loss in oil pressure at idle speeds around the track, but the one thing they did not want was a Jaguar V12 engine failure.
Goodyear examined the tyre and determined it was a tyre failure which had triggered the accident. The tyre deflated causing the car to understeer into the barrier. This information was shared with the Jaguar VIPs and pit crew.
The No44 car eventually experienced gearbox problems. It seemed Hewland did not install any filtering for the gearbox. Running sprint races in IMSA had not shown any indication of this. As Mr Kent says, the Lancias did indeed suffer the same fate with their VGC transaxles, so there was a weak link in the filter process. Jaguar’s VIPs were fine with this gearbox failure, as it did not reflect any possible engine problem.
If our No40 car had continued through the race, it would have possibly gone out with gearbox shifting problems as the other car experienced.
The race results were disappointing for all involved in this project. Bob Tullius and Group 44 presented a formidable team. I owe the start of my professional career to Bob, back in Trans-Am in 1966, and I was very honoured to have been called back for duty on the Le Mans project.
I hope I have shed some light on the snags which caught us out.
I am, Yours etc,
Tony Adamowicz, Costa Mesa, California