Jaguar Type-D at le 24h du Mans (part1)

Please excuse my english, we do our best…..

After the 1953 victory (subject of a previous article), Jaguar decided to study the design of a new car: the Project D.

Sir William Lyons set his engineers 3 objectives compared to the C-Type: gain weight, power and increase top speed. To do this they used a new technology: a monocoque aluminum chassis, instead of the tubular chassis of the C-Type. Concerning the engine, Jaguar decided to continue with the XK block of 3422cc, the 6 cylinder in line. The engineer in charge of the engine department, Harry Weslake, managed to increase its power to 240 HP. Concerning the top speed it is Malcolm Sayer who worked on the new bodywork. He made an even more aerodynamic line than that of the C-Type and placed a vertical fin at the back of the driver’s backrest in order to stabilize the car at high speed.

From the first tests the car proved to be very fast and the edition of the 24h of Le Mans in 1954 promised to be tight between the English cars and the Ferrari 375 Plus and their V12 5 liter engine of more than 240 HP.

Three Jaguar D-Type will be at the start, the chassis XKD402, with the num 14, driven by Tony Rolt and Duncan Hamilton. XKD403, with the num 12, driven by Stirling Moss and Peter Walker and XKD404 with the num 15 driven by Peter Whitehead and Ken Wharton.

From the start, the Ferrari 375 Plus of José Gonzalez and Maurice Trintignan ahead of the D-Type of Rolt and Hamilton, but less than 2 hours before the end of the race, in heavy rain the Ferrari slowed down and returned to the pits. The ignition seems drowned and the engine no longer turns on its 12 cylinders. During the repair, the Jaguar D-Type made up for it again and when Gonzalez left the pits the two cars were in the same minute. The last hour was a series of lap records but the Ferrari crossed the line first with the smallest difference then recorded at the 24h of Le Mans: less than 4 km. (NB: Note that during the 1969 edition the gap between the Ford GT40 of Ickx and the Porsche 908 of Hermann-Larousse, the first two, will only be 100m but this will be the subject of an upcoming article).

Legend has it that Ferrari used more mechanics than the number authorized to repair the car, but Jaguar refused to file a complaint arguing that the victory was won on the track and not in court.

The 1955 edition of the 24h of Le Mans is dramatically known. The accident and the conflagration of the Mercedes in the crowd was tragic and remains to this day one of the most serious in motorsport. The running authorities of the race decided not to interrupt the race in order to facilitate the work of the emergency services and the ambulances. Competitors ignoring the dramatic consequences of the accident continued to fight on the 13 km of the Sarthe circuit as in previous editions of the race.

In 1955, the Jaguar D-Type aero had been reworked. The nose is longer and the windshield is more enveloping in order to be extended by the rear fin. In addition to the three factory cars, two other Jaguars were entered by Cunningham and the Francorchamps team.

The 3 official ones: the XKD505 chassis, the num 6, piloted by Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb, the XKD506 chassis, the num 7, piloted by Rolt and Hamilton, the XKD508 chassis with the num 8 piloted by Don Beauman and Norman Dewis.

A car was engaged by Cunningham, chassis XKD507 with the number 9, drived by Phil Walters and Bill Spear. Ecurie Francorchamps entered the XKD503 chassis for the num 10 driven by Johnny Claes and Jacques Swaters.

Ferrari presented its new car, the 121 LM with its 4.4 l engine, a 6 cylinder developing 330 hp. Mercedes returned with the new 300 SLR, driven by Moss and Fangio and Levegh. Their engine was an 8 cylinder 3 l 300 hp, but above all the cars were equipped with a revolutionary braking system: « Intrados ». A flap, positioned behind the driver, which rose when braking and which made it possible to brake as hard as cars fitted with disc brakes. Aston Martin will also be present with the DB3S and Maserati with the 300S.

Once the start was launched, two Ferraris took the lead, followed by two Jaguars and the Mercedes of Levegh. Fangio hung the bottom of his pants in the gear change by wanting to imitate the style of the departure of Stirling Moss by jumping in the car. Following this he was stuck in the slower cars but from the first hour of racing he will go up one by one all the competitors. Around 6:30 p.m. Fangio returned to the Jaguar and Hawthorn fought like hell to contain the Mercedes. We are only a few years after the end of the war and Hawthorn, in good English, refused to be overtaken by a German car.

They lined up the laps at a brisk pace and even took a lap ahead of Pierre Levegh who was sparing his mount for the 24 hour race. Unfortunately, during a maneuver in the pit straight, the Macklin Austin Healey 100S swerved to avoid the Hawthorn D-Type and propelled the Levegh Mercedes out of the track with the dramatic repercussions we know .

On the track, the race continues and is in full swing, Moss and Fangio in their Mercedes fight for seconds with the D-Type of Hawthorn and Buel. On the Ferrari side, the 121LM from Castellotti, after fighting with the top men, gave up on engine problems from the 5th hour. The Ferraris of Trintignan and the one of Phil Hill did not end the night. By mid-race the three official Scuderia cars had abandoned. At that time, the Mercedes factory in Stuttgart ordered Alfred Neubauer to withdraw the two Silver Arrows still in the race.

The Jaguar Type-D of Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb having no more opponents at his level, ended the race in freewheeling and won a third crown at the factory of Coventry, leaving the Aston Martin DB3S of Peter Collins and Paul Frère more than 62 km away.

The victorious car, the XKD505 chassis in 1955 and today:

1955 Hawthorn and the mercedes of Fangio and his famous « Intrados »

You will find many photos of Jaguar Type-D on the site http://www.pistonsandwheels.com of which here are some examples. These are exclusively authentic Jaguar Type-D chassis numbers: XKD505 – XKD506 – XK517 – XKC543 – XKD558 and XKC561

Toute reproduction interdite sans l’autorisation de l’auteur – Reproduction prohibited without permission of the author

@waltheradriaensen – pistonsandwheels

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