Jaguar’s remarkable XJ220 is the latest classic car to receive the record-breaking treatment at the Silverstone Classic.
It’s 25 years since the dramatically-styled, mid-engined, two-seater supercar was first introduced, quickly becoming not only Jaguar’s fastest ever production car (an accolade it still holds today) but also the fastest production car in the world when clocked at a – then peerless – 212.3 mph.
Jaguar produced just 271 XJ220s between 1992 and 1994 in conjunction with its competition partner Tom Walkinshaw Racing – each one priced at a not inconsiderable £470,000. Such is their rarity that, until this summer’s planned gathering at the Silverstone Classic (28-30 July), never have more than a handful ever been seen together.
Now, working closely with renowned XJ220 specialist Don Law Racing, the organisers of the annual Classic are aiming to bring together more than 50 examples for an astonishing display and circuit parade at the end of July.
“We are inviting all XJ220 owners from right round the world to join us for what will be a really special celebration of an often overlooked supercar,” said Law. “We will be bringing along some special models including the Martini car and the MIRA crash test car, and we are also hoping to have one of the factory Le Mans cars here. The largest public gathering of XJ220s in the UK to-date is 20 – our aim for this summer’s Classic is to at least double that.”
The Jaguar XJ220 showcase will take place on the Saturday of the event, with a parade lap involving some specially invited guests who have close associations with the car’s design, development and on-track success.
“The Classic now has quite a reputation for staging these record-breaking parades but, even by our own very high standards, this promises to be something very, very special,” stated Nick Wigley, CEO of event organiser, Goose Live Events. “It all really started back in 2011 with the remarkable cavalcade of 767 E-types, which still holds an official Guinness World Record for a parade of Jaguars. Since then, we’ve seen massive numbers of Aston Martins, Porsche 911s, Ferrari F40s, Ford Mustangs and even grand prix cars all take to the track – and this year, we will add never-before-seen numbers of XJ220s to that incredible roster.”
Although originally conceived to feature a V12 engine plus four-wheel-drive, to meet emissions legislation and performance targets, the showroom XJ220 model arrived with a 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 developing 542bhp, delivered to the rear transaxle via a five-speed manual gearbox.
A racing version – called the XJ220-C – was introduced in 1993 to compete in the increasingly important GT class within international sportscar races. Later that year, one of these factory-entered cars driven by David Brabham, David Coulthard and John Nielsen won the GT category at Le Mans only to be controversially excluded by the French organisers.
“When I first saw the XJ220, I must admit I thought it was a sexy-looking beast, but as soon as we started testing it transpired to be difficult to drive,” Brabham recalls. “In fact, by the time we got to Le Mans pre-qualifying, it was pretty scary and tail-happy – not to mention slow.
“A much bigger rear wing was fitted for the race, all of a sudden bringing the car to life – but even then, the week was far from straightforward. Despite a variety of dramas, we fought back against all odds to win our class.
“To represent Jaguar at Le Mans was already something very cool, and to be up on the podium after the race was amazing, with a sea of fans down in the pit-lane below. My brother was one of the overall race winners with Peugeot, so it was a particularly special moment for the Brabham family, celebrating a double victory.
“And then, of course, we got disqualified…”
All those wanting to experience this not-to-be-missed XJ220 celebration can still take advantage of Early Bird tickets, which offer discounts of up to 18 per cent if purchased before the end of March.