The History of Jaguar E-Type Racing
November 6th 2020
The History of Jaguar E-Type Racing
Launched in 1961, the Jaguar E-Type was a classic sports car that turned the heads of everyone at the Geneva Auto Salon. Starting as a prototype in 1957 and going on to become one of the most-loved classic sports cars of all time, the E-Type story is a fairy-tale.
However, it was far more than just an eye-catching performance road car: the Jaguar E-Type has an impressive history as a race car, especially on home tracks. Here’s the story of this beautiful car and how it fared against tough opposition.
An Accidental Racer
The Jaguar E-Type race car was an outcome that was never intended. During its initial design, it was created to be no more than a standout road car and it was never expected to take to the track.
Like the C-Type and D-Type, the Jaguar E-Type has sweeping curves which are naturally aerodynamic but this was originally just a happy coincidence. Disc brakes were still relatively unusual at the time, but they were fitted to the E-Type because of the benefit they would offer regular road users.
Not all of its features were suitable for racing. The independent rear suspension - while innovative - was created to deliver better handling on B-roads while the 3.8-litre engine was pitched to perform well at low speeds. Not exactly the spec you’d want on a racing car!
Demand for E-Types rocketed and production struggled to keep up with the amount of orders placed. Under such pressure, there was neither the time nor the inclination to tweak the E-Type in order to race.
Despite the lack of appetite to race the E-Type, the FIA unwittingly tempted Jaguar into signing up when they created a new category which fit the car perfectly. A GT category for production sports cars, it was impossible for Jaguar to resist.
In its first race, the E-Type Jaguar race car was raced by a young Graham Hill who secured a resounding win, beating off competition from the Aston Martin DB4 and Ferrari 250 GT. Further wins were racked up in Britain at Brands Hatch, Silverstone and Goodwood.
Honing the Design
It was clear that changes were needed if the E-Type race car was going to be competitive outside Britain. After making some experimental tweaks, the engineers hatched a plan to build an ultra-light E-Type using aluminium components pressed on the same tools as the standard steel cars, making the E-type lighter paired with stripping down the interior to leave just the basics also shaved off precious pounds.
These E-Type upgrades increased the top speed of the Jaguar by 20mph, resulting in them converting the car to a full aluminium body, part of a limited run of race-spec cars, building just an exclusive batch of 18 British racers. Based on the roadster but featuring a hardtop, the new and improved E-Type had a 3.8-litre engine and a five-speed gearbox.
It wasn’t just the Jaguar engineers who were watching developments with interest. Enzo Ferrari had been following their changes with increasing concern, and as a result, instantly ordered a lighter 250 GTO to be made.
On British tracks such as Silverstone, Goodwood and Snetterton, the new E-Type proved to be a roaring success, gobbling up the twisty track. However, when it moved overseas to larger and faster circuits, it was soundly beaten back by Ferrari.
Over the years, various owners have honed the design of the Jaguar classic race car, and it continues to perform well in competitions. Unfortunately for fans, the E-Type never managed to top the podium in international races but its lack of success away from the domestic arena didn’t blunt it's undeniable popularity - either then or now.
The Last Hurrah | Group 44 E-type
It wasn’t just the early E-type designs that tied itself seamlessly to the track, in 1970 British Leyland's North American director Mike Dale, tasked Bob Tullius’ Group 44 racing team and Huffaker Engineering to campaign an E-types in the East coast and West coast SCCA production car championships.
Even through restrict regulations from the ‘modifications’ class, Tullius and Group 44 engineers Brian Fuerstenau and Lawton Foushee, explored ways to improve the 70’s British stock roadster. Stripping out every unnecessary component and with some engineering magic, enhanced the Series 3’s 272bhp 5.3l V12 up to a staggering 460bhp!
Making its debut in August 74 at the Watkins Glen International, New York, Tullius first raced the ‘Quaker State’ E-type taking the car to victory, winning five races and the regional championship. After this roaring success, Tullius brought out the Group 44 E-type, virtually unchanged in 1975, scoring a remarkable further seven victories, upping his tally to 12 wins out of 17.
The Group 44 E-type was later abandoned and replaced by the all-new XJ-S model, however, Tullius' success didn’t go unrecognised as he was awarded as Jaguar's sole North American competition partner.