Le Mans Pilgrimage


Jaguar XJ40 XJR

I was on gate duty at the JEC Northern Day, Ripley Castle, one week after the 30th Anniversary of the XJ40 at Dunkeld. As the Jaguars streamed in, a stunning JaguarSport 3.6 XJR caught my eye. I went across to the driver and told him how gorgeous I thought his car was and that it should have been at Dunkeld! He looked rather upset and admitted that he was very disappointed not to have been able to make it.

Later that day, I spotted the same car on the field and pointed it out to Rob Jenner. “You like that car?” he asked “Well go and take a closer look!” Wondering what I might find, I eventually discovered from the list of owners displayed on the windscreen that it was yet another ex-Jenner car ….. It truly is a stunner, and with my passion for the 3.6 XJ40’s I am very sad that I missed it, but the feature below is the result of that meeting.

 

XJR Returns to its Spiritual Birthplace

by Jon Skinner

It’s the winter of 1986, TWR and Jaguar have just had a good full year back in the World Sportscar Championship, I’m sat at my uncle’s house and he says, “you should come to Le Mans with us” and that as they say is where it all started.  I duly went to Le Mans in 1987, and 88, and 89 (you get the picture?) and have been going since.

Two years ago I found myself in that situation you dream of as my best friend said, “do you want my Jag?”, not any old Jag but a 1989 3.6 Jaguarsport XJR in pretty good nick too.

Jaguar XJ40 XJR

So 2016, some 30 years later, I find myself, my daughter, best mate and his son driving to the Le Mans Classic.

We set off from Huddersfield on the Thursday morning and headed for Lincoln.  After fully loading the car we set out for Portsmouth.

Our ferry is the 11pm sailing to Caen and boy did they squeeze us in, the Bentley next to us had at least 2cm of gap. Fortunately it was a calm overnight crossing and having charged our batteries a bit we disembark 7am Friday morning and head for Le Mans.

 Jaguar XJ40 XJR to Le Mans
 Jaguar XJ40 XJR to Le Mans Having managed just over an hour on the motorway we decide to come off and enjoy the drive through the French countryside.  This turned out to be far more enjoyable as the car just loved the roads and we very quickly found ourselves in a little British convoy of a Ferrari 308, Porsche 911 Targa and a  BMW 3 Series.  If you haven’t been to Le Mans before it’s the other cars you drive down with that are as big a part as the race.

 

As we got to the outskirts of Le Mans itself our convoy dissolved and we went our separate ways.  We were heading to our digs, not far from Tertre Rouge.

Friday was spent watching all of the different classifications qualifying.  A highlight was Andy Wallace putting a beautiful  1955 Gold D type on pole for the 1949-1956 classification.

Saturday was up early ish, breakfast with our hostess and off to the supermarket for provisions.

 

Back to the circuit and a mere 14 hours of racing (that’s all we could manage), slowly taking advantage of different places to watch the cars from Tertre Rouge to the Esses, up to the Dunlop Bridge and down to the Start Finish straight.

Then it’s off to the village and a little refreshment or two before we gave up and headed for our beds at 2am.

 Jaguar XJ40 XJR to Le Mans
 Jaguar XJ40 XJR to Le Mans The cars do look particularly spectacular as the day light starts to fade, another Le Mans spectacle.

We were back at it all again on the Sunday,  nothing quite like a 1929 Bentley Blower entering corners with the driver hanging over the door, fighting his massive steering wheel as the old bus 4 wheel slides off on to the Mulsanne Straight.

With another days great racing behind us we have a little something special to do.  That was to get the Jaguar onto the Mulsanne Straight ourselves.

The French are masters at turning the public roads into and out of a race circuit and just over an hour after the racing has finished we find ourselves cruising down my car’s spiritual birthplace, the Le Mans circuit.

 

Jaguar XJ40 XJR to Le Mans

The XJR enters Indianapolis

We go to the village of Arnage for a little light entertainment and a meal before coming back round the circuit and getting the money shot. (above)

Monday we set off at the unearthly hour of 5am to allow us to catch the morning ferry back to ‘Blighty’ from Caen.

Jaguar XJ40 XJR to Le Mans The overall round trip was 882 miles, total driving time 19 hours and an average mpg of 27.1. It was only on returning home and looking back on another fantastic Le Mans weekend that we realised just how graceful the trip had been and how the car swept along effortlessly, making the trip all the more spectacular.