|Posted by Philip Prior on April 1, 2014 at 7:50 AM|
Just as 2013 was dominated by the launch of the F-TYPE convertible, so the attention will shift this year to the new coupé version which goes on sale in March. From a Heritage point of view, the big event that will go hand in hand with this is the 60th anniversary of the Jaguar D-type.
In the 1950s, the D-type played a pivotal role in establishing Jaguar’s motorsport credentials on the most demanding race circuits around the world. Now, sixty years later, the new F-TYPE coupé is set to redefine the Jaguar sportscar for the 21st century – possibly paving the way for another return to motorsport. Who knows…?
The first prototypes were completed in May 1954 and taken straight to Le Mans where development driver Norman Dewis broke the lap record by five clear seconds! In the race itself a month later, three D-types were entered but had a frustrating race suffering from some contaminated fuel. Once the problem had been diagnosed and fixed, one of the cars driven by Duncan Hamilton and Tony Rolt set off in pursuit of the leading Ferraris. They finished just 1m 45s behind the winning Ferrari after 24 hours of hard fought racing – during which the D-type had demonstrated its superior aerodynamics by recording a maximum speed of 172.8mph on the Mulsanne straight, over 10mph faster than the Ferraris.
From that point on there was no stopping the D-type. It recorded its first race victory just a few weeks later in the 12 hour race at Reims driven by Peter Whitehead and Ken Wharton.
Enhanced with long nose bodywork and uprated engines, it went on to achieve many other famous race wins. These included the 1955 Sebring 12 hour race in the USA and the ill-fated Le Mans 24 hour race of that year; further victories were won by D-types at Le Mans in 1956 and 1957 in the hands of the privately run Ecurie Ecosse team, with the best ever result being the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th places achieved in 1957.
Plans are already taking shape for a number of events and activities during the year at which this historic car’s 60th birthday can be celebrated. Jaguar Heritage is fortunate to own two D-types, the original 1954 prototype chassis XKC-401 (registration OVC 501) and a 1956 long nose version chassis XKD-605. This well-known car, 393 RW, won the 12 hour race at Reims in 1956 on its maiden outing driven by Duncan Hamilton and Ivor Bueb and was the works car that finished 6th at Le Mans that year driven by Bueb again together with Mike Hawthorn.
Starting the New Year with a bang was the Autosport International show at Birmingham’s NEC, which took place from January 9-12. This annual curtain raiser is a showcase for the worlds of motorsport and performance vehicles with a live action arena where celebrity race drivers and an array of the best driver’s cars are put through their paces.
The performance car media were there in force and Jaguar Heritage was asked to supply a couple of cars from its collection to add colour and interest to the displays of both PistonHeads.com and Evo magazine.
PistonHeads (along with Autocar) was one of the sponsors of the Performance Car Show – which runs alongside Autosport International - and had a large display of classic high performance road cars tagged as ‘PistonHeads Heroes’. Amongst these was Jaguar Heritage’s 1954 D-type prototype, making its maiden public appearance in this 60th anniversary year.
The text in this article has been reproduced from the JAGUAR HERITAGE NEWS—JANUARY 2014 REPORT and is used with permission.—Ed.