Jaguar wins GTP class, 24 Hours of Daytona, 1-2 February 1992
Jaguar may have pulled out of The World Sportscar Championship at the end of 1991 but it had one last season in endurance racing; the 1992 International Motor Sports Association’s GT series in the US. As with the WSC, Tom Walkinshaw Racing oversaw Jaguar’s IMSA entries and used a variety of cars for the 15-race series, including the V12-engined XJR-12 for the 24-hour events, plus the V6 turbo XJR-14 and its XJR-16 replacement for the others.
As was traditional, the first race of the 1992 IMSA GT calendar was the gruelling 24 Hours of Daytona in Florida for which Jaguar entered a single XJR-12 that lined up seventh on the grid. There was also an XJR-16 which had qualified a tremendous second, but was withdrawn just before the start due to engine problems.
The remaining car — chassis 891 which had finished fourth at the 1991 LeMans — was driven by TWR regulars, Davy Jones, David Brabham, Scott Pruett, plus Scott Goodyear who had switched over from the withdrawn XJR-16. Jaguar’s main rival was the Nissan’s factory team, NISMO, which was making its IMSA debut, but whose V8-engined R91CP was competing in the LeMans class (which wasn’t eligible for points), while the XJR-12 was in GTP (Grand Touring Prototypes) that was.
Jones took the first stint, calmly making his way up the field until he was behind the leading Nissan of Masahiro Hasemi, Kazuyoshi Hoshino and Toshio Suzuki, before being replaced at 7.30pm by Brabham. Disaster struck when the Australian hit the barrier after leaving the pits due to cold tyres, damaging the car’s front end and breaking the steering arm. The repairs cost the team five laps, but the Jaguar was soon back up to third only for the gearbox to suffer from a serious issue that required the mechanics to replace the entire gear cluster. Taking an incredible 24 minutes to complete, Davy Jones rejoined the race determined to cut down the 18-lap deficit and again clawed his way back to third, but a faulty front brake caliper set him back by another seven minutes. It had been a troubled race for the team and the car was only in contention due to the speed of TWR’s pit crew. “Awesome,” said team director Tony Dowe of his team afterwards. “They’re the best mechanics in the world.”
With this being the car’s final unscheduled pit stop, there was an all-out push to catch the still-leading Nissan R91CP of Hasemi, Hoshino, and Suzuki that had run smoothly throughout. Had the Jaguar’s V12 not experienced increasing temperatures during the latter stages, Jones might have made a last-minute run to catch it. But, with the Nissan not eligible for points, meaning Jaguar would come away with a maximum haul, he wisely decided not to take any risks, coming home a fine second overall and first in the GTP class. Other than the XJ220 winning its class at the 1993 LeMans – which was later disqualified – this was Jaguar’s final success at a 24-hour race, a discipline it had once ruled.