Matters of moment, September 1985

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Jaguar Returns

Elsewhere in this issue we report on the debut of the new Jaguar XJR-6 Group C car in the Mosport 1000 kms. Given the professional nature of all forms of international racing it would have been a near miracle had the cars won on their first appearance but the fact that one led for the opening laps and its sister finished third behind two works Rothmans-Porsches most be judged to be extremely promising.

Group C was a category which promised much but has become rather dull, partly due to stifling fuel economy regulations and partly due to the fact that so far only Porsche has managed to build cars capable of winning fully-supported races. The arrival of a competitive new team must be good for this branch of the sport.

Jaguar, however, is not any new team. It is a company which has a peculiar glamour founded on its great Le Mans success of the Fifties. We have recently seen the mere presence of works Jaguars add new fire to ETC racing and greatly increase its popularity. Jaguar is one of an elite handful of makers which can stir the blood of enthusiasts.

What is particularly pleasing about the return of Jaguar to international long distance sports car racing is that the move seems to fit in perfectly with changes which have recently been taking place within the company. Not so long ago, Jaguar was in trouble, its products were suffering from unreliability and poor quality control and its sales were falling accordingly. It seemed that a once-great name was heading for obscurity.

Then a new management team led by John Egan began to put the company on a fresh footing. Productivity increased, quality improved and sales once again soared. Before he died in February of this year, Sir William Lyons the company’s founder had seen Jaguar once again become an independent company and its 1984 output break all the firm’s previous sales records. All at Jaguar deserve the highest praise for this remarkable turn mound in fortune.

For a company to expose itself in international competition requires a degree of confidence and it is good to see that Jaguar is again in a position to have that confidence. It is also pleasing to note that, in the best traditions of the “C” and “D” Types, the engine which powers the XJR-6 is basically the same V12 unit which is offered in its road cars. If the new cars take the chequered flag, victory will in our view be all the more meritorious for the fact that a production-based engine will have been used.

Win or lose, it’s great to see Jaguar back and it will be even better when, next year, the cars turn out at Le Mans. We can only wish the company every success in its racing programme and continued success with its production cars. The British racing public will have the opportunity to see the cars take on the Martini-Lancias and all the major Porsche teams at Brands Hatch on September 22nd.