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C Type at Le Mans

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Home > JAGUAR HISTORY > C Type at Le Mans

Jaguar C Type Le Mans was a glorious day but for the C Type with Moss, Biondetti, and Walker occupying the first three places before Biondettis car came into the pits with no oil pressure in the engine. An oil pipe in the modified sump had fractured, and the same fate was to befall Moss. But Walker and Peter Whitehead drove on, their precision and smoothness avoiding the critical vibration period which endangered the engine, to win by some 7 miles from the Talbot of Meyrat and Mairesse.

Jaguar was not content to rest on its laurels after the Le Mans win, and spent a lot of time developing the revolutionary disc braking system. These new brakes overcame the problems associated with the old fashioned drum brakes and first proved themselves in the Mille Miglia in 1952. Moss crashed when well placed in the race, but not before he had had time to be impressed by the performance of the new Mercedes 300SLR. To counter the performance of the Mercedes, Jaguar modified the C Types bodywork with a long drooping nose for better air penetration and a higher top speed. Unfortunately, this bodywork caused the engine to overheat and all three cars had to retire at Le Mans in 1952.

By 1953 initial teething problems with the disc brakes had been sorted out, and the Le Mans race rapidly developed into a duel between Moss and Villoresi in a 4.5 litre Ferrari. Whilst the Italian car had better acceleration, the Jaguar was far better under braking. Meanwhile, Rolt and Duncan Hamilton in the second Jaguar were both driving with the handicap of monumental hangovers. Due to an accidental breach of practice regulations they had both been disqualified before the start, then reinstated when Lyons proved to be at his most persuasive with the race organisers but not until after Rolt and Hamilton had drowned their sorrows in the bar. Drama again unfolded during the race when Moss came into the pits with fuel feed problems, but Rolt and Hamilton took over to win for Jaguar, with Moss and Walker second after their fuel lines had been cleared. The Jaguar D Type

Jaguar D Type In an effort to improve the top speed of the C Type the car underwent a substantial redesign, the result of which was the beautiful and charismatic D Type Jaguar produced for 1954. Its aerodynamic lines, with the distinctive tailfin, were largely the work of Malcolm Sayer, who had joined Jaguar from the Bristol Aircraft Company. It was Sayers experience in the aircraft industry that led to the D Types monocoque central section, much like and aircraft fuselage. In the 1954 Le Mans race the car showed its worth, being capable of 170 mph some 20 mph faster than the C Type. Moss and Ken Wharton were the early pacemakers in their Jaguar until they were eliminated by various ailments. Eventually the race developed into a thrilling battle between the 4.9 litre Ferrari of Gonzalez and Trintignant, and the D Type of Rolt and Hamilton. After a ferocious effort the Ferrari would win by only a minute over the Jaguar in second place.

By 1955 Moss had been lured away by Mercedes, to be replaced by the rising star Mike Hawthorn. During the 1955 Le Mans race, Hawthorn had been racing neck and neck with Fangio in a Mercedes, passing and re passing each other, each annihilated the lap record in turn, though it was Hawthorn who finally posted the quickest lap of all, at 4 mins 6.6 secs., an average of 122.39 mph. But disaster befell the race when Leveghs Mercedes collided with Macklins Austin Healey in a mix up involving Hawthorn. The Mercedes disintegrated as it left the track, killing Levegh and 81 other people in the crowd. Moss took over the leading Mercedes, whilst Ivor Bueb replaced the shocked Hawthorn. Eventually Mercedes withdrew its cars in sympathy for the dead, and the D Type soldiered on to win an event marred by motor racings worst accident.

Whilst Jaguar was enjoying success in motor racing, its road cars were also benefiting from their own development as well as technologies that stemmed from the development of the race cars.

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