Do You Love Silk Cut Jaguars? One Of The Group C Legends Is Heading To Auction With RM Sotheby’s Next Month
Few cars from the 1980s’ Group C sportscar endurance racing era, indeed of any racing era, are recalled as fondly as the Silk Cut Jaguar. Under the inimitable stewardship of Tom Walkinshaw Racing, the effort ended long Porsche domination of top-level sportscar competition. TWR’s Silk Cut Jaguar team first bagged the world sportscar crowns in 1987 then took Le Mans 24 Hour victory, Jaguar’s first since 1957, the following year. It then proceeded to further success into the early part of the next decade.
This genuine Silk Cut Jaguar car is heading to auction as part of RM Sotheby’s London sale taking place next month, on October 24, at the Olympia event space in West Kensington. The Jaguar XJR-11, one of only three examples built and one of two produced in the original 1989 configuration, is expected to go for £1,050,000 to £1,250,000.
For that ‘89 season Walkinshaw realized that, despite the success, Jaguar’s ageing naturally-aspirated V12 engine, first conceived in the 1950s, needed updated. He went for a lighter turbocharged motor, as it would suit Group C-regulated fuel limitations as well as match the new engines of its rival Sauber-Mercedes C11. This V6 powered the new XJR-11, which was a brand-new Tony Southgate design with various improvements over its successful predecessor, such as a lower center of gravity and increased downforce.
The car made its debut in mid-1989 in the world championship’s Brands Hatch round, and this included the car heading to auction though it retired from the race early with distributor problems. It finished fifth on its second appearance, at the Nürburgring in the hands of John Nielsen and Andy Wallace, though then had two more non-finishes.
Come 1990 though this car proved a consistent points-bagger and helped Wallace to fourth place in the final championship table, one ahead of a certain Michael Schumacher! The car finished fourth at Monza, Wallace paired with Jan Lammers, and the same combination finished second in a Jaguar 1-2 at Silverstone. They repeated the second place at Spa before taking a brace of fourth places, at Dijon then again at the Nürburgring before Wallace, then joined by Davy Jones, got third in Mexico’s season-closer. He was however well behind the championship-topping Mercedes drivers both on pace and points.
The 12-cylinder XJR-12 won 1990’s Le Mans for Jaguar and the XJR-14’s development for 1991 was underway, plus the XJR-11 was sure to no longer be competitive under FIA rule changes for ‘91 forbidding turbocharging. So it was essentially retired from Group C competition, though raced in Japan in ‘91.
The XJR-11 is seen as an unsuccessful Silk Cut Jaguar, yet Wallace reckons it’s more a matter of perspective. “The [XJR-11] was actually a massive step forward on the V12 Jags,” Wallace said. “It was a great car, but it just happened to coincide with one of the greatest sportscars ever, the Mercedes C11.” The XJR-11 also is the link between Jaguar’s two most recent Le Mans winners.
After being shelved for most of the 1990s, this XJR-11 was sold in the late ‘90s to esteemed Aston Martin Works president Paul Spires, who entered the car in a handful of Group C celebratory events. It was acquired shortly after by XJ220-specialist Don Law Racing, and the XJR-11 appeared occasionally at events while being fastidiously maintained in the original Silk Cut livery. It then was sold to the consignor, and the car remains ideal both for Group C historic racing events and Jaguar celebrations.
Images courtesy of RM Sotheby’s