Due to its aerodynamic magnesium body, lightweight tubular chassis and Jaguar’s powerful 3.4-litre XK engine, ever since its introduction in 1957, the Lister ‘Knobbly’ (so called due to the tall front wheelarches flanking its low nose) had quickly become the car to beat in international sports car racing. One of the other main reasons for the car’s success was Lister’s works driver, the Scot Archie Scott Brown. Despite having a badly deformed hand and severe mobility problems with his legs, he was still an immensely talented and courageous driver.
Road Atlanta might be thousands of miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, but what happened at the American circuit four decades ago would have a direct impact on Jaguar’s future success at Le Mans. Ever since Bob Tullius’ Group 44 team had announced its IMSA GTP programme with the V12-engined XJR-5 in the early Eighties, there had been speculation that it would be a spring board for the British company to head back to the famed 24-hour race. Jaguar, though, initially played down its chances.
Although Jaguar had come close to building a competition version of the F-Type not long after its 2012 debut, apparently working with the Williams F1 team to develop such a model, it never came to fruition. In early 2018 a genuine racer based on the car finally broke cover. But although it was built by Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) based in Ryton, having been developed for an independent team, Invictus Games Racing, it wasn’t the works effort many had been hoping for.
Due to the global economic downturn of the early Nineties, Jaguar and its racing partner, TWR, had already pulled out of the World Sportscar Championship at the end of the 1991 season and then the American IMSA series the following year. But with the team contemplating a return to the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1993, three V12-powered XJR 12Ds were entered into the Daytona 24 Hours in late January as a way of gathering race experience with the cars.
Despite Ian Appleyard dominating the Alpine Rally throughout the early Fifties with his cream XK120, registration NUB120, since the Monte Carlo Rally’s rules at the time demanded cars over 1ó litres had to be four-seaters, it meant he had to ditch the sports car in favour of a MkVII instead. For his first Monte in 1952, Appleyard ordered a brand new example, registered PWN 7, but due to poor weather he, together with his co-driver wife, Pat (who was also the daughter of chairman of Sir William Lyons) finished a lowly 53rd. He would use the car again for that year’s Tulip Rally in April when he came home a strong second.
From blown diffusers to front-tyre-warming, toe-angle-adjusting steering columns, both born then banned in the past two decades, Formula One has been defined by relentless rule-bending engineering innovations since its inception. However, the most primal of them all doesn’t even hail from this century; it supersedes carbon fibre as F1’s go-to construction material in the 1980s.