On the afternoon of 12 June 1988, just as the England football team was slumping to a pitiful 1-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland in the European championships in Germany, Jaguar was writing the Monday morning news headlines at the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Dutch racer Jan Lammers steered his XJR-9LM – chassis number TWR-J12C-488 – across the finish line, then joined co-drivers Johnny Dumfries and Andy Wallace atop the podium.
The seeds of Jaguar’s victory had been planted in 1984, when Jaguar teamed up with the American Group 44 team, which had created a sports racing car around Jag’s V12 unit. In 1986, Tom Walkinshaw’s TWR Racing was tasked with building a car to win Le Mans outright.
Everything came together with the Tony Southgate-designed XJR-9LM in 1988. The ‘LM’ suffix denoted the car’s special Le Mans aerodynamics package, which was different from that used for the short circuits and made effective use of a low rear spoiler and truncated bodywork.
Its V12 was based on the 5.3-litre engine fitted to the Jaguar XJS road car, bored out to 6995cc and tuned to produce 750bhp and 611lb ft of torque. In an era before chicanes had been introduced on the Mulsanne Straight, the XJR-9 achieved 246mph.
Even that wasn’t enough in qualifying, where Jaguar’s arch-rival Porsche was able to turn up the turbo boost of its 2998cc, flat-six-engined 962C prototypes to nearly 800bhp and lock out the front row of the grid.
Over 24 hours, however, the Jags were quickest. Two of the British cars retired but the car pictured here ran consistently to the end, even if the gearbox began to grumble in the dying moments.
More than three decades since the dominant D-type had scored the last of three consecutive victories at La Sarthe, Jaguar was emphatically back on top. This weekend at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Wallace will be reunited with the XJR-9LM, which is now part of the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust.