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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Famous 1981 Bob Tullius/Group 44 SCCA Trans-Am/IMSA GTO Jaguar Racing Car


Check out my new summary post and video of this awesome and historic Jaguar racecar on Steemit at https://steemit.com/group44/@classiccar/group-44-1981-jaguar-xjs-scca-trans-am-imsa-racing-car-soundtrack

Now for the story:

Renowned for its impeccable preparation, uncanny professionalism, and victory tally from the very start, Group 44 Inc. and its distinctive green-and-white racing cars very successfully carried the Triumph and Jaguar banners in America from the early 1960s through 1988. In addition to its hard-charging drivers and committed crew, Group 44 had its own “unfair advantage” up its sleeve in Lawton “Lanky” Foushee, the team’s fabricating wizard. Throughout its long and storied history, however, perhaps Group 44’s finest achievement is the team’s pivotal role in returning Jaguar to international-level racing, culminating in the storied marque’s eventual return to Le Mans. The car offered here, XJR-4, played a pivotal role.

Following Group 44’s landmark 1975 SCCA B-Production National Championship victory with a Jaguar E-Type Roadster and its stellar achievement of back-to-back SCCA Trans-Am championships with production-based XJS Coupes in 1977 and 1978, Jaguar sanctioned a new car to be built and campaigned by Group 44 in the 1981 Trans-Am series. With the era’s rules effectively favoring the Corvette contingent, something more radical than before was clearly needed to continue Group 44’s remarkable victory run in the Trans-Am.

Unlike its production-based forebears, the new car, dubbed XJR-4, was a purpose-built, fully tube-framed “silhouette” car with fabrication of course directed by Lanky Foushee. The Jaguar V-12 engine, now equipped with competition dry-sump oiling, was set back into the chassis eight inches and pumped out some 570 horsepower. A race-prepped, all-Jaguar fully-independent suspension and a lightweight steel and aluminum body-shell rounded out the technical highlights of the radical new XJR-4.







The 1981 Trans-Am season was hard-fought and delivered a steep learning curve to the Group 44 team and their new mount. Nonetheless, Bob Tullius and the XJR-4 were on the podium at the car’s first race at Charlotte, finishing a strong second, followed by victory at the next race in Portland. Victory eluded the team at the next two events at Lime Rock and Portland, but Group 44 was once again at the top of the podium at Brainerd on August 9. Following a difficult race at Quebec’s Trois-Rivières circuit, Tullius and the XJR-4 achieved their last victory together at Mosport. Always highly competitive and remarkably quick in qualifying, the XJR-4’s three wins were not quite enough to hold off the dominant Corvettes in the 1981 Trans-Am championship race.

For its first outing in 1982, the XJR-4 was entered by Group 44 into the gruelling 24 Hours of Daytona, a moment in time foreshadowing Jaguar’s eventual full-scale return to international endurance racing. Expecting to qualify the car in GTO, Group 44 were stunned to find the car was deemed too radical by technical inspectors and consequently moved up into the GTP-GTX category, pitting the car against far faster prototypes and effectively putting XJR-4 out of contention for victory. Nonetheless, the XJR-4 and its drivers Bob Tullius, Bill Adam, and Gordon Smiley acquitted themselves well. 

In fact, the XJR-4 remains famous today as the “World’s Fastest XJS” for hitting 194.46 mph at Daytona, a feat somewhat conveniently ignored in several respected Jaguar texts but nonetheless recorded for posterity in “Jaguar: The Sporting Heritage” by the respected Jaguar marque expert Paul Skilleter. Particularly important, this XJR-4 ran Daytona on shaved Goodyear Wingfoot street tires! It also provided critical endurance testing of Jaguar's 6.0-liter V-12 racing engine design, which went on to power the Group 44-built XJR-5 Group C endurance car that eventually contested the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This car therefore marks the first time since the 1950s that a factory-commissioned Jaguar automobile entered an international endurance-racing event.

Following Daytona, XJR-4 saw limited action with the only other entry for 1982 at Road Atlanta, where the car made its last SCCA Trans-Am start. There, ignition problems forced Tullius to retire. In 1984, the XJR-4 was entered into the Sebring 12 Hours with Group 44 co-drivers John McComb and Paul Pettey but did not finish due to an accident; however, the Jaguar was rebuilt in time for the Lime Rock IMSA GTO race just two months later. There, Pettey managed to qualify the XJR-4 sixth and finished in the same position, marking a sterling result to end the car’s original racing career.

Of course, things were moving fast and by this time, Tullius and Group 44 were fully immersed in the XJR-5, which the team campaigned at Le Mans and achieved 13th overall with in 1985. The XJR-7 followed, but by then, the UK’s fierce Tom Walkinshaw had effectively taken over Jaguar’s entire racing programme, to the point of “borrowing” Tullius’ own “XJR” nomenclature for the racing cars, a tradition that began with his famous SCCA B-Production E-Types.

Bob Tullius sold the XJR-4 to Pettey, who retired the car to barn storage, along with D-Type XKD549 and at least one other racing car, a vintage Trans-Am Mustang. Following Pettey’s tragic death in 1997, the cars were sold and XJR-4 was purchased by SVRA Owner/President Howard Turner. Following completion, the car was featured in the May 2005 edition of Classic Motorsports and that summer, it was acquired and restored as required by long-time father-and-son Jaguar racers Andrew and Steve Moore of Ontario, Canada. 

Under the Moores, the XJR-4 has been carefully maintained and enthusiastically raced in Historic Trans Am/IMSA with HSR, SVRA, and Canada’s VARAC. Annual entries at the US Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen have proven competitive yet most enjoyable and in 2009, the Moores and their famous Jaguar participated in the Group 44 Reunion at the HSR Walter Mitty Challenge on Georgia’s Road Atlanta circuit. 

As offered at Monterey, XJR-4 clearly continues to benefit from the fastidious maintenance and the care of Andrew and Steve Moore in the footsteps of Group 44’s Bob Tullius, Brian Fuerstenau, and “Lanky” Foushee. “On the button” and ready to race, XJR-4 is accompanied at auction with spares, logbooks, and even period racing set-up sheets from its Group 44 days. With some 589 bhp on tap, it is sure to provide its new owner with a thrilling and highly competitive drive. In short, this “one of one” XJR-4 represents a truly historic and irreplaceable link to Jaguar’s eventual return to, and ultimate victory in 1988 and 1990, at Le Mans. 

To view the auction listing for the XJR-4 or to make bidder arrangements, visit www.russoandsteele.com. The car is being offered at the 13th Annual Russo and Steele Monterey, California auction August 15-17.










All writings and images are Copyright David Neyens 2013








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