You were there: 24 hours of Le Mans 1988
The Le Mans 24 hours is on again next weekend with a Jaguar competing for the first time since 1993, when John Nielsen , David Coulthard and David Brabham “won” the Grand Touring Category in the XJ220C.
I have found my photos of Jaguar’s historic victory in 1988, when Jan Lammers , Andy Wallace and Johny Dumfries brought their TWR XJ9-LM home ahead of the Porsche 962C of Derek Bell, Hans Stuck and Klaus Ludwig .
The 1988 victory was a big deal for Jaguar and Walkinshaw, as at the time Jaguar was a struggling independent British car maker and Porsche had dominated the winner’s circle at Le Mans for the previous seven years. TWR Jaguar had come in force in 1987 but only managed 5th place behind four Porsches. I was there for that race too and there were long faces on the Jaguar company and dealer personnel as the Jags gradually dropped out. It was a cold, wet night that year.
After the disappointment of 1987 there was an even bigger crowd of British spectators desperate for a Jaguar victory the next year. Tom Walkinshaw took no chances – bringing five cars, a stellar line up of endurance drivers, truckloads of spare parts, an army of technicians and support personnel and even a jet on standby to fly back to TWR’s base at Kidlington in the UK for any emergency parts. The bill must have been enormous but I am sure that Jaguar CEO John Egan, who was in the pits, felt that it was all worthwhile when the winning Jaguar got over the line ahead of the two works Porsche 962s. I was there with a group of Australian Jaguar dealers and it was a wonderful weekend in every way. I can still remember the empty champagne bottles piled high in the Jaguar hospitality tent and the sea of smiling faces. Later the next week we were in Kidlington when work was just starting on refurbishing the winning car. Now of course it would have been left, dead insects intact, to be paraded at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
We all came for a repeat performance in 1989 but it was not to be and a solitary XJR-9LM came home fourth behind two Saubers and a Porsche 962 . The champagne stayed in the bottles that year – Jaguar must have bought them on a “win or return” basis.
Four months later Jaguar was taken over by Ford and it set out on its long march into the Dearborn wilderness from which it has only recently returned – now owned by India’s Tata Group.
Images: John Shingleton