When the Jaguar XJR-15 was unveiled in November 1990, the production version of another Jaguar – the XJ220 – is due in the next 12 months and was approved two years prior. The difference between the two lies mainly in fact that the XJ220 was something set off by Jaguar's board while the XJR-15 was a pet project by Tom Walkinshaw of TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing).
Jaguar had invited TWR to develop and operate the Group C program in 1985, a partnership that led to victories at Le Mans in 1988 and 1990 as well as back-to-back wins at World Sportscar Championship in 1987 and 1988. At this time, Walkinshaw was working on a road-going concept derived from the XJR-9 that won the 1988 Le Mans.
Dubbed as XJR-9R, this model was employed to test the durability of composite materials over thousands of miles. Eventually, the XJR-9R was used as a basis for the XJR-15. Walkinshaw, somehow, was able to convince Jaguar to support the project, leading to the setting up of JaguarSport joint venture that would build around 50 examples of the new sports car.
While the XJR-15 was designed and built as a road-going supercar, it was marketed as a racer so as not to entice prospective customers for the XJ220. Its price was tagged at $960,000, and customers are given the chance to participate in a one-make series -- the 1991 JaguarSport Intercontinental Challenge.
This 16-slot three-round series was a support event to the Formula One races in Monaco, Silverstone and Spa Francorchamps. While the price included full race prep and maintenance for the series, any damage would be shouldered by the owners. While the carbon fiber and Kevlar composite monocoque chassis of the XJR-15 was derived from the XJR-9, its design and construction were not the same.
The XJR-15 features a modified tub that could comfortably accommodate two occupants (driver and passenger) while the XJR-9 has a passenger seat that existed merely to satisfy the rule makers. Other difference was the ride height. XJR-9 has a lowered ride height for underbody ground effects. For the XJR-15, the ride height had to be increased to make it suitable for road use, and thus its underbody ground effects had been decreased considerably.
Intriguingly, XJR-15 features a full-racing suspension with pushrods at the front actuating spring/damper units as well as outboard dampers and springs placed within the wheels at the rear. XJR-15's engine and transmission served as a stressed member bolted to the rear bulkhead on which hung the car's rear suspension. Interestingly, drivers are given the ability to adjust the front anti-roll bar along with the brake balance.
The front was marked by cooling ducts carved out from the sport car's nose and sides. It has been fitted with headlights. To create more downforce, the XJR-15 was endowed with a color-coded fixed rear spoiler. Amusingly, all 50 examples of the XJR-15 were originally painted ‘XJR Blue’. Inside, the cabin was home to grey leather seats, instrument binnacle and dash top.
However, the interior is sans any carpet, door trim or headlining. Jaguar and TWR built all 50 XJR-15 in right-hand drive with right-side gear. Weighing just 1050kg and with much power at its disposal, the XJR-15 was able to accelerate from zero to 60mph in just 3.1 seconds, with a limited top speed of 185mph. However, the sports car was capable of running over 210 mph.