“I wouldn’t say it is the best car I’ve ever driven, because I’ve tested the 2010 Ferrari and a 2005 Red Bull. But is is the best car I’ve ever raced.” – Martin Brundle
“Think of how much used tires this car produces” – Matt Taylor @ RimsWheelsNTires
The Jaguar XJR14 takes a place on the list of world championship-winning racing cars produced in the name of the British manufacturer. But it has an even more significant place in the history of sportscar racing for reasons beyond that. It was a car that picked up the goalposts and moved them onto another playing field.
The XJR14, which delivered Jaguar the drivers and manufacturers’ titles in the 1992 Sportscar World Championship, was a game changer.
“It was, if you like, the first modern sportscar,” says long-time Jaguar driver Martin Brundle. “It was the first prototype I ever drove that, when you turned the steering wheel, the car was willing to go with you.”
The TWR-Jaguar team’s take on the 3.5-litre Group C rules was the product of an all-new design team put in place by Ross Brawn. They scrutinised the regulations and came up with what Brawn describes today as a “competitive interpretation of the rulebook” and built Ford’s HB V8 Formula 1 engine, complete with Jaguar badges of course.
The XJR14, unlike its predecessors, had no doors, just push-out windows. The rules stipulated a minimum door area and a minimum glass area. Brawn’s design team essentially combined them, which was crucial in allowing for a high-sided, narrow and ultra-stiff monocoque and the relocation of the radiators to the side pods. That freed up the front of the car for aerodynamic gain, while more clever reading of the rules yielded an even bigger down force gain at the rear. The regulations stated that a two-element rear-wing was allowed. There was nothing stipulating the distance between the elements, and TWR mounted one low down to effectively increase the size of the rear diffuser.
The new Jaguar was head and shoulders faster than its rivals at the start of the 1991 season. It didn’t win on its debut at Suzuka, reliability niggles saw to that, but it did win at Monza, Silverstone and the Nurburgring. By then, big-spending rival Peugeot had gone back to the drawing board and reworked the aerodynamics of its 905 along XJR14 lines. Jaguar wouldn’t win again in the world championship, but Teo Fabi and Derek Warwick had enough points in the bag to ensure that both the drivers and manufacturers’ titles went the way of the British marque.
Fabi eventually sealed the crown at the Autopolis finale, but Jaguar was not to defend its titles. The end of its long-standing deal with the Silk Cut tobacco brand and uncertainty surrounding the SWC brought the European programme to an end. The XJR14 raced on in the US IMSA GTP series and notched up a further two victories before regulation changes on both sides of the Atlantic consigned the last of the Jaguar Group C cars to the museum. The design would, however, live on as the Mazda MX-R01, without a roof and with a Porsche flat-six engine, as the German manufacturer’s double Le Mans-winning WSC95.
If you’d rather read about technical specifications, click here.