Pride of Big Cats goes on the prowl at Silverstone reunion
David Brabham reunited with class-winning Le Mans car
Evocative track parade including cars from as far afield as Japan
‘Fitting tribute’ to what was once the world’s fastest production car
More than 40 Jaguar XJ220s came together at the Silverstone Classic today (29 July), in a record-breaking reunion to mark the 25th birthday of what was once the fastest production car in the world.
The dramatically-styled, mid-engined, two-seater supercar was introduced in 1992, with its top speed of 212.3mph making it Jaguar’s quickest road-going car – an accolade it still holds to this day.
Just 271 XJ220s were manufactured in tandem with Jaguar’ competition partner Tom Walkinshaw Racing between 1992 and 1994 – each priced at an eye-watering £470,000 – and such is their rarity that no more than a handful have ever been seen together. Until today.
Curated by renowned XJ220 specialist Don Law Racing, the unprecedented display of 42 XJ220s from all around the globe helped to create a spectacular on-track parade led by David Brabham (below middle top left) – driving the very #50 car (kindly loaned by JD Classics) in which he claimed GT class victory at Le Mans in 1993 before being controversially disqualified – with Walkinshaw’s widow Elizabeth alongside (below middle top right).
Indeed, all four competition specification XJ220Cs in existence were on show at Silverstone, including the #52 team car which had come all the way from Japan just to be part of the anniversary celebrations.
“I’ve never seen so many 220s in one place,” Brabham remarked. “I remember when the race programme all came about and Tom asked me to be part of it. It was such an epic feat to even get to the first race and to go to Le Mans in reasonable shape, and of course, at the end of the day we finished first on-track.
“To be involved as one of the lead drivers was very cool. It was a brilliant time, and seeing this car again always brings back memories. It’s a special day to see so many 220s turn up.”
Others to participate in the evocative showcase included Tiff Needell – who similarly raced an XJ220 at Le Mans, in 1995 – and Don Law (below middle bottom left), the undisputed doyen of the marque’s most famous supercar and the mastermind behind today’s extraordinary gathering.
“What a spectacle, with the three Le Mans cars at the front in an arrow formation and all the other cars behind – absolutely incredible,” enthused Law, who drove the XJ220-powered van – originally used as a test mule – at the rear of the parade.
“We could never have dreamt that Mr. Fukuda would bring his Le Mans car all the way from Japan in an aeroplane, but such is the passion for these cars that people have travelled from all over. I think Liz Walkinshaw was very emotional today. The XJ220 has been a big part of a lot of people’s lives.”
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.
Amongst the invited guests with close ties with the illustrious car’s design, development and on-track success were erstwhile Jaguar Engineering Director Jim Randle and senior sports car designer Keith Helfet, the brains behind the XJ220’s stunning and ageless styling. Both were leading lights in the famous ‘Saturday Club’, whose members secretly built the original concept car in their spare time.
“Today certainly brought back a few memories,” reflected Randle. “It’s a fitting tribute to the 12 of us who put together this extremely special car, and although sadly some of them are not around anymore, it’s great to see a few here today. It was a crazy programme, and if my bosses at Jaguar had known what we were doing, I’m sure we would have been fired!”
“I knew this would be a memorable day, but I couldn’t have imagined the scale and how emotional I would be, seeing all these cars and being part of the convoy around Silverstone,” added Helfet. “It really is one of the standout days of my life and career. The car’s power is something else. I hardly got the chance to try it today, but when you unleash it and the turbo kicks in, it’s really visceral – what a feeling!”