History – The First Of The XJRs
XJR-6 Chassis 185

Thanks to www.wyles-hardy.com, we have access to the race histories of a number of the Tony Southgate-penned XJR Jaguars – the ones currently for sale by private treaty. For more information call 44 (0)1442 832234.

Chassis 185 was the first of the TWR Jaguar XJRs, and was built during May and June 1985. It was first tested by Martin Brundle, at Snetterton, and its race history is outlined below. Some time after 1985, it was converted to a show car and painted in Silk Cut livery, carrying number 1.

It was fully restored by TWR personnel in the early 1990s, and re-painted in the original green and white, pre-Silk Cut, livery.


The original intention was to debut the car at Hockenheim, but that proved an impossible target. Insufficient spares were available to allow even the sole existing XJR-6 to race in Germany.

Mosport became the cars’ debut race, and in these early days, the XJR-6s suffered from considerable understeer. Tony Southgate explains that “the aerodynamics were very close, because I’d used my experience in designing the C100 when creating my next design, the XJR-6. The single, large side radiator in the C100 just didn’t work (aerodynamically), so I made the decision from the outset to plonk a front radiator in the Jaguar.”

The first XJR monocoques – in carbon of course – were over-engineered, and therefore somewhat overweight (just over 900 kg). For 1986, with time available to go through the whole design, Southgate came up with a lighter variant – but the first three chassis, the ’85 cars, were a very good starting point.

“The understeer was an easy fix,” explains the designer. “Easy” because he’d created a massively stiff monocoque, one that could handle a very stiff front anti-roll bar. Until that could be tested and race-developed, the understeer was partially cured by fitting a front wing. The big V12 was the issue – not just big, but heavy too. 250 kg with a high centre of gravity, and the weight transfer as drivers threw the ground effect car into the corners caused a pitching across the front end: hence the need for a robust anti-roll bar. The other part of the fix was to ask Dunlop for wider, slightly taller front tyres.

But with a compressed time frame, two cars made their debut at Mosport, 185 running as #51, driven by Martin Brundle and Mike Thackwell. 285 was shaken down on the day before Qualifying. 185 weighed in at 910 kg, the new chassis was 15 kg lighter.

Testing was ongoing throughout Practice and Qualifying. The nose wing caused the front tyres to suffer, but Dunlop delivered larger fronts to the circuit – and they arrived during second Qualifying. Brundle found the steering heavier, but handling and braking were improved. He placed #185 third on the grid with a 1:12.602, nearly three seconds slower than the Porsche pole time (Hans Stuck – using high boost). Porsche welcomed the rivalry from the V12s, and were apparently surprised at their pace, so soon into development. Porsche surprised at the competence of Southgate and TWR?


dailysportscar.comBrundle must have surprised Norbert Singer even more on lap one, taking the lead (above) and staying ahead for ten laps. How many new cars make a debut like this? The front left wheelbearing failed at 13 laps though (another “easy fix”), so the two #51 drivers were switched to #52, which finished third, 19 laps down on the first and second placed 962s (Stuck / Bell followed by Mass / Ickx).

Sadly, the XJR-6s’ maiden race was overshadowed by the death of Manfred Winkelhock.

Team Manager Roger Silman referred to “hundreds of items to attend to,” but for Tony Southgate, the time for a raft of changes was 1986. “The fuel system was a really rushed job, and was pretty unsatisfactory: there were three fuel cells and it wasn’t ideal in most respects.” But there were four more 1985 races to enter before Southgate could concentrate entirely on the redesign for the ’86 cars, although he didn’t attend all of the remaining ’85 races, choosing to stay at his drawing board at the end of the season.

Spa-Francorchamps saw Brundle qualify eighth in #185, he and Thackwell finishing fifth – and the XJR-6s’ second race was also marred by tragedy: Stefan Bellof lost his life at Eau Rouge. There was a knock-on effect at TWR: Brundle was Bellof’s team mate at Tyrrell, and Ken forbade the Briton from any more sportscar drives. Up stepped Jan Lammers – to begin his sparkling, Le Mans-winning, TWR career.

The Dutchman drove the 52 car at the next race, Brands Hatch (below), where Jean-Louis Schlesser partnered Alan Jones in ‘our’ number 51 (#185). Rear bodywork (shortened) and front anti-roll bar (stiffened further) changes helped the handling around the twisting Kent circuit, while the front wing was raced for the first time. But a new problem arose, tyres turning on rims. Jones then had a stuck throttle early in the race, wrecking the engine. Lammers’ debut in 285 ended with a broken valve spring – another problem that would be resolved for the following year.


Fuji in October saw the European entries withdraw owing to a flooded circuit (John Nielsen would have to wait a few weeks to make his Jaguar debut), so the race ready cars were shipped to Shah Alam in Malaysia, for the ’85 cars’ final race.

Conditions were so torrid that the Jaguar drivers - most of them anyway - were suffering from the heat and humidity after just half an hour in the cockpit. The story goes that Jan Lammers completed an hour in 285, and was then beckoned over by Tom Walkinshaw – and promptly hopped into 185, for another hour behind the wheel (hence the listing of three drivers in 51, below).

Lammers / Nielsen / Thackwell finished second, the best finish for chassis 185 in its short racing career. It’s a significant car in so many ways, but at the top of the list is the fact that it’s the first of the TWR Jaguars. And it’s fully rebuilt, around that massively strong monocoque.

The next part of the story involves the ’86 cars, and how they developed into the ’87 Championship winner, #287, also for sale through Wyles Hardy & Co. We’ll quiz Tony Southgate about the development process through to 1987, and bring the story of #287 soon.

(actually the plan changed...the next part of the story is that of the 1990 Le Mans winner, to tie in with the 71st Le Mans 24 Hours)

Race History, Chassis #185
3rd July Mosport, Canada 51 Martin Brundle / Mike Thackwell Retired
1st September Spa-Francorchamps 51 Martin Brundle / Mike Thackwell 5th
22nd September Brands Hatch 51 Alan Jones / Jean-Louis Schlesser Retired
6th October Fuji, Japan 51 John Nielsen / Mike Thackwell Withdrawn (Heavy rain)
9th December Shah Alam, Malaysia 51 Jan Lammers / John Nielsen / Mike Thackwell 2nd

With thanks to Chris Mann for the Mosport images, David Wall for the Brands Hatch image..


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