In the mid-'50s, the Jaguar D-Type dominated the motor racing scene. It won at Le Mans in '55, '56 and '57. In '57, five D-Types took the first six places. And they were all privateers. It is safe to say that Jaguar 'targeted' the famous French circuit!
Jaguar's C-Type had paved the way. 'C' stood for Competition. Jaguar took their XK120 sports car - a proven success, on both road and track - and grafted on a race-spec body kit. William Lyons - Jaguar boss - opined that pure production cars could no longer cut it, at the race-track. A Jaguar motorsport division was required. The C-Type won twice at Le Mans ... and, in so doing, demonstrated that disc brakes were the way to go.
The D-Type, then, was Jaguar's first dedicated racer. It hit the grid in '54. From the get-go, it was clear that Jaguar had been busy! The flowing curves of its bodywork came courtesy of Malcolm Sayer. The stabilising fin at the rear looked like it had been lifted from a land speed record car. Underneath lay a 'monocoque' chassis. Disc brakes were fitted all-round ... jointly developed by Jaguar and Dunlop. A front-mounted 6-cylinder motor fed 250bhp to the rear wheels. Top speed was 175mph. In the '54 Le Mans race, a D-Type pushed Ferrari all the way to the flag. The Ferrari, though, had a much bigger engine. Jaguar, no doubt, chalked that up as a moral victory! The D-Type was still available to privateer drivers, and race wins were recorded around the world. Coventry, England - Jaguar HQ - was well and truly on the automotive map! The D-Type first bridged the gap between road and track. To that extent, it changed motor racing. No longer would 'competition cars' be within easy reach of the average driver. Motor racing, generally, would become less accessible. Whatever the verdict on that, few cars have moved motorsport on more radically than the Jaguar D-Type.