Let Me Tell You About A Real Howling Thundercat: The Jaguar XJR-9

The 1989 24 Hours of Le Mans saw not one, not two, not three, but seven factory teams competing for victory, a high point for prototype racing. And the car that won it, well, was not the Jaguar XJR-9. But there is a good reason to adore it. Two, really.

I shouldn’t denigrate the XJR-9. First of all, it recorded the highest top speed of the race, the last one run without chicanes on the endless Mulsanne Straight: 241 miles per hour, versus the Sauber C9’s 248 in practice.

And the XJR-9 won the 1988 Le Mans, breaking Porsche’s stranglehold on the Group C era. Jag would win again in 1990, too, for what it’s worth.


but one should love the Jag XJR-9 for getting it done with a hulking 7.0-liter production-based V12 behind the driver. Just a gigantic lump of engine with a seat strapped to the front of it. No turbos, no nothing. It was even single-overhead-cam. Only once did Jag run a DOHC version, but drivers complained that the added weight high up on the engine was more of a hinderance than not.

These were very modern, high-downforce cars, digital and up-to-date for the ‘80s, but there is something classic to them. All motor kinds of cars.

That and they had spats on the rear wheels. It was for aero efficiency, but c’mon. They just look so right.

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