Jaguar — on the way back

Jaguar is back in motor racing with commitment, and the ultimate goal is success at Le Mans. This was the message that came through clearly when Motor Sport returned to Browns Lane last month to gauge the success of the European Touring Car Championship bid which has been mounted this year by Tom Walkinshaw Racing, with full technical support from Jaguar.

With ten of the dozen ETC rounds now completed, the score is finely balanced with the TWR Jaguars and a bevy of BMWs having scored five victories apiece. Neither will win the Championship this year for by splitting the outright victories, Alfa Romeo and Volkswagen are left level-pegging in the lower classes. However, Tom Walkinshaw stands a good chance of winning the Driver’s Championship title, and all that matters to Jaguar is to win more races than the German make.

Silverstone will be the venue of the next European Touring Car Championship round on September 11th, the final and decisive round being at Zolder on September 25th. Both are fast circuits on which Jaguar can be expected to have the upper hand, though memories of the 1977 Silverstone race when the Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12 Coupes failed on home ground are painfully fresh, and there will be no complacency in the preparations.

Jaguar’s new-found commitment is found in the clumsy phrase “Failure Modes and Effects Analysis”, which means basically that “mechanical parts will fail, so we have to investigate when, how and why”, according to the company’s Director of Product Engineering, Jim Randle. “I did not get involved in motor racing until two or three years ago, and I had not thought that there would be any tie-up between production and racing,” Mr Randle told us. “But in fact there is a remarkable similarity, and if anything, racing is easier!”

The whole approach boils down to attention to detail, not only in the design and preparation of the cars but in the team’s whole approach to the season. In this, Mr Randle has the highest regard for Tom Walkinshaw, whose ideas for future development coincide almost exactly with those of the factory.

It is perhaps harder for Jaguar to compete in races than for any other team, simply because the factory is so involved and because there are two major targets to finish, and to win. Since John Egan was appointed to lead the management team three years ago the company has elected to tackle, head-on, the prestigious German makes BMW and Mercedes in the world’s market places, and beating BMW on the tracks is an essential part of that plan.

Two very recent failures by the Jaguars to finish their races have been particularly galling, at the Nurburgring and in the Spa 24 Hour race. ln fact it was due to the failure at the Nurburgring that plans were rapidly changed to take in the Touring car race at Hockenheim, supporting the German Grand Prix in front of 100,000 German spectators. Though Walkinshaw’s car was an early retirement, Enzo Calderari’s sister XJ-S was a convincing winner.

“Any race you don’t finish is disappointing, since our new reputation is based on quality and reliability, and I must admit that I get very upset when we don’t win,” says Mr Randle. “Tom gets even more upset, though, and I do keep out of his way when things are going wrong!”

That comment is intended as a compliment to Tom Walkinshaw, the rugged Scotsman who has formed works supported teams for Mazda, BMW, Rover and Jaguar in his time, and earned a formidable reputation for effectiveness in every department. Jaguar supply the race-car bodies, ready prepared, to TWR at Kidlington, near Oxford, along with factory parts and money, the sum being undisclosed. Neither is the power of the V12 engines disclosed, though it is not less than 375 horsepower in Group A (touring car) form, “with a little bit up our sleeves”.

Mr Randle is critical of the racing effort in 1976 and 1977, when under the more free Group 2 regulations the V12s were developing over 500 bhp, “more than was needed to win races” at the expense of fuel economy and reliability. Since then the economy of the V12 has been improved dramatically on the production line, though the May cylinder head combustion chambers are not carried through for racing since their main objective is to save fuel in the mid-range, whereas the racing cars need top-end power. The previous race programme, which Jaguar only became involved in towards the end, has if nothing else taught the company all the things not to do.

To most racing teams winning is all, and their engineers will go to the limits of reliability to achieve maximum performance; the trick, of course, is to have just enough reliability to finish the event in the first place. With Jaguar winning is just as important, but not breaking down with either car is equally important, so clearly the whole competititions programme is a tightrope act.

This philosophy will be applied to next year’s race programme. On the touring car front, only when the XJ-S is totally reliable will the Jaguar board allow other teams to have replicas in order to increase the depth of Jaguar representation; the sales organisation in Germany, which is a Jaguar subsidiary and will be fully operational next January, has expressed interest in running a two-car team, and Jaguar Italy has expressed a similar interest. So with the TWR Jaguar programme continuing, there could be six Jaguars taking part in next year’s ETC.

The question of technical feed-back is always raised, and in the case of Jaguar the answer is that a good deal has been learned from this year’s programme. In the early 1950s the development of the disc brake was hastened by Jaguar’s Le Mans programme, so what has been learned this year? “Our development, as applied to production and racing cars, has taught us a number of lessons,” says Mr Randle. “Not, perhaps, things we were not aware of before, but racing has highlighted the need to do certain things on our road cars. The main areas are cooling, lubrication and the redesign of certain components, such as the rear suspension hub carrier and the crankshaft oil seals, all of which are being carried through to the production line. Also, within the Group A regulations, we are testing certain components for future models.”

Foremost among thear future developments are advanced engine management schemes which will be developed further next year, and will almost certainly be applied to production cars later on. The Jaguars will race next year in much the same form as now, since “the V12 is the ideal race engine for us, so it deserves most of our development expertise”.

Mr Randle will not be drawn on Jaguar’s possible involvement at Le Mans next year, but the fact that Bob Tullius’ XJR-5 has the same sort of support from the factory as Tom Walkinshaw’s programme, and has been tested by Derek Bell at Silverstone, leads us to draw obvious conclusions. This, too, is powered by the V12 engine, though in IMSA trim it develops over 500 bhp, and was capable of lapping Silverstone at 1 min 23 sec which would put it close behind the Porsche 956s, with much development still to be carried out. Next year’s fuel consumption regulations, 15 per cent stricter than this year’s, can only be of benefit to Jaguar as well as Aston Martin, while a disadvantage to the turbocharged Porsches.

“Le Mans is part of Jaguar’s heritage, and we will go back there one year,” says Mr Randle diplomatically.”But it will only be if I feel sure that we have a chance of winning. I don’t want to say any more than that, and I do not intend to be pressured into going to Le Mans until all our research and development has been completed.”

Much of Jaguar’s reputation, even today, is the result of five famous victories at Le Mans in the 1950s when Ferrari was the formidable opponent to beat. Now, perhaps, Porsche is almost more formidable with three works cars and another ten customers cars all capable of success. Porsche’s sheer wealth of expertise and facilities is an apparent deterrent, “but if we had thought like that in 1939 we wouldn’t have got anywhere!”.

Many people feel that Jaguar’s involvement in the Europe. Touring Car Championship has saved that series from extinction, overwhelmed by BMW’s domination. In much the same way the World Endurance Championship cannot survive in its present form unless Lancia, and other makes, can provide a serious challenge. While European manufacturers will not undertake a programme for philanthropic reasons, that is to save the Championship, there is every good reason for them to do so as a shop-window since success will have a special significance.

Evidently, then, the progress of the XJR-5 holds the key to Jaguar’s possible appearance in the WEC. This year it has scored two outright victories and Bob Tullius is now second in the IMSA Championship, much to the delight of the American public. The car’s performance in the Daytona 24-hours next January could be particularly significant.

If racing is the showcase, all the solid work done over the past three years by the engineers (led, of course, by Mr Randle) and the sales and marketing organisation have met with considerable success, and continues to do so. Worldwide sales in the first six months of 1983 totalled 14,528 units, an increase of 42 per cent over the same period in 1982. Today, the rate of production continues towards a target of 28,500 units, the most that can be built at the three main production facilities at Castle Bromwich (body plant), Radford (engine and suspension machining and assembly) and Browns Lane (assembly and trim).

In six months Jaguar made more cars than in the whole of 1980, when 10,500 workers produced 14,105 cars. Last year the workforce was reduced to 7,200, with 22,046 cars made at a much higher level of productivity per man, while today the workforce has risen to around 8,000 — some of the gain is in the management tier, as Jaguar is almost autonomous again after its post-Ryder ties with British Leyland.

And the company is in profit again, just having invested £5 million of its own money in a new final assembly line which looks as good as anything seen in Stuttgart. The model split is 24,000 saloons this year (92% of them six-cylinder) and 4,500 XJ-S Coupes, most of which are pre-sold and go down the line with a customer’s name on the specification sheet. These days the Daimler name is reserved for the British market, having virtually no recognition overseas.

We asked Mr Neil Johnson, Jaguar’s Director of Sales and Marketing, to pinpoint the main reasons for success. “First is quality. A lot has been said about this, and the improvement really has been dramatic. We know that people wanted Jaguar to succeed, would like to buy our products if the quality could be improved, and we believe that we are now competitive with anything on the market. Secondly, our specialisation on products, and the enthusiasm which goes right through the organisation. We have managed to fire up our American dealers, and our dealers throughout the world, and that is half the battle. Our customers are now satisfied that we are producing a high quality product that’s more enjoyable to drive, and ride in, than anything produced in Germany.”

Taking on the Germans seems to be the central theme, with Mercedes, BMW and Porsche being the main targets. Future model plans, the earliest of which will be revealed at Motorfair in October, will expand the range by bringing open-top motoring back, and will include a new family of six-cylinder power units to replace the XK engine which has done sterling work since 1948. It is the American market that matters most, with half of all Jaguar’s production being sold there through Jaguar’s subsidiary marketing organisation, and its dealer network. Total sales of 7,733 cars in the first half year was 73% up on the midway figure last year, and are “very solid” according to Mr Johnson. “We have now moved from being an operator on the fringe of the exotic car market, to being a mainstream market operator — and that’s all the difference in the world!

Today, a Jaguar is a respectable car to buy, a solid purchase.” The home market in Britain is running 8% up on last year, but Germany is seen as having the biggest growth potential. Traditionally Germany has taken 800-900 cars a year, but this year’s total is likely to be in excess of 1,200 and, with their own sales organisation, Jaguar hope to increase this to perhaps 6,000 cars a year by the end of the decade, some 10% of the luxury car market estimated at 60,000 units.

Even that pales into insignificance against America’s luxury car market of 450,000 cars, where Jaguar’s three per cent penetration leaves plenty of room for growth. There are only four makes sold in any volume at over 29,500 dollars, these being the three German makes plus Jaguar, and if you redefine the “top class” in this way the potential is just short of 40,000 cars per annum to be shared among the Europeans.

The Middle East has seen spectacular growth, rising from zero two years ago when Jaguar was on the Arab’s “black list” to a probable 1,000 units this year, and Japan where the traditional sale of 400-500 units a year is likely to rise to 1,000 units in the near future.

After years in the doldrums the British car manufacturers are again becoming buoyant, and none more so than Jaguar whose motor sport programme, regarded as an important part of the regeneration process, looks likely to be expanded. Nothing would give Jaguar enthusiasts across the world more pleasure than to see this programme meet with success at Le Mans. — Michael Cotton