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Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12C race cars

IntroductionBroadspeed Jaguar XJ12C - 1976 paint scheme

British Leyland (BL) and Ralph Broad’s Broadspeed racing team collaborated to make the Jaguar XJ12C into a race car. 

Unfortunately history tells us that the Broadspeed Jaguars were failures in terms of race wins but were extremely fast on the track, set record qualifying times, took many pole positions, broke lap records and lead most of their races.  The early race cars suffered from oil starvation problems and tyre & driveshaft failures.  This, combined with a string of mechanical reliability problems, resulted in the cars not being able to finish a race, let alone win one.  Their reliability record, in conjunction with a typical lack of long term British Leyland financial commitment, eventually forced the retirement of the cars and the team after a very short racing career.  General opinion was that if they had persisted into another racing season the continued development could have overcome the gremlins and a winning car would have evolved – but unfortunately this was not to be.

Broadspeed – History

Ralph Broad was in his late twenties when he started racing in 1955.  In 1959 he successfully raced an early BMC Mini which helped him to sell racing conversion packages to other Mini owners.  In 1962 he established Team Broadspeed, for which he remained one of the drivers. The Broadspeed cars were competitive with the factory works Coopers, especially at the hands of John Fitzpatrick, who had become the team's top driver.

In 1965, Broadspeed began to transition its support from BMC to Ford products after Broad was approached by Ford with an offer to begin campaigning the Ford Anglia and later the Escort.  In 1971, John Fitzpatrick won four British Touring Car Championship races in a Broadspeed Anglia.  Eventually, the company was also offering engineering consultancy work that led to a number of successful projects.  Broadspeed became reacquainted with BMC in 1974, by which time the manufacturer had become part of British Leyland.  Driver Andy Rouse then won the manufacturer's title in a Broadspeed Triumph Dolomite Sprint.

In 1975, Ralph Broad was contracted to prepare Jaguar XJ Series II V12 Coupes for entry in the Group 2 class of the European Touring Car Championship.

About 1978 Ralph Broad sold Broadspeed to a former Mini racing colleague before retiring to Portugal where he died on September 17, 2010.

Jaguar contracts Broadspeed to build XJ12C racing cars

Ralph Broad believed in the competition potential of the Jaguar V12 engine and the idea was discussed with Leyland’s management to prepare a Group 2 Jaguar XJS to confront BMW and Ford in the European Touring Car Championship.  However, to help increase sales of the Jaguar XJ range, Leyland wanted the XJ12 Coupe to be used.  The marketing men won out and the big coupe was chosen.

It came at a tricky time for Jaguar, sales were down and internal politics were tearing Jag’s parent company, British Leyland, apart.  A full racing program was settled on to shift some cars and enthuse the suits.  The XJ12C was an odd choice considering the car’s weight and complexity, nevertheless, British Leyland gave Broadspeed a pair of cars and told them to turn them into Group 2-spec racers.

The XJ12 Coupe was larger and heavier than its German rivals but a hectic development period from October 1975 saw two cars built for the 1976 racing program.  Broadspeed and Jaguar combined to pursue mechanical development together with aggressive weight saving.  The extensively modified interior, while stripped and featuring just one bucket seat, actually retained its walnut veneer dash and electric windows, possibly unique features for a racing car!  The exterior had radically modified bodywork with huge flared wheel arches, brake cooling ducts and the bodyshell lightened by way of acid-dipping.  The suspension was still basically the XJ design, but with uprated double coil springs and shocks.

The engine was a race prepared Jaguar 5.3-litre V12, bored to 5,416cc and fitted with 12:1 compression forged pistons and race grind billet cams.  The crankshaft remained standard but the conrods were modified and the heads reworked, especially around the valves.  An oil cooler was fitted and Lucas mechanical fuel injection used with ram-effect plenum chambers.  The few modifications that were made boosted power to 550 -600bhp at 8,000rpm.  The early cars suffered from engine oil surge that they tried to overcome with sump baffling, but it was not solved until towards the end of the program when regulations changed to allow a dry-sump system.   The drive train consisted of a standard manual gearbox casing with close-ratio gears, a heavy duty racing clutch and a solid mounted, rear axle.  Oil coolers were fitted to the engine, gearbox and differential.

Despite the massive output and desperate attempts to lighten the XJ shell it was still a 1.5 ton car.  And that caused several dynamic problems, especially slowing the thing down.  Broadspeed called on brake manufacturer Lockheed and their solution was to go large and the company produced some bespoke eight-piston callipers for the front and four pots for the rears.

The XJC goes racingBroadspeed XJ12C restored

Development of the new race car was delayed by major problems including blowing three engines and crashing one car during testing.   The new Broadspeed Jaguar team missed the first five rounds of the 1976 Championship series for which their big, beautiful XJC was intended and did not make their race debut until September of  that year at Silverstone in the RAC Tourist Trophy race.

Their rivals must have been startled and concerned by the Jaguar’s initial performance.  During qualifying Derek Bell lapped Silverstone at nearly two seconds faster than European Champion-elect Pierre Dieudonné in the fastest BMW 3.0 CSL and during the race the Jaguar established a new lap record time.  Bell led the opening stages of the race until tyre wear became a factor and a puncture interrupted the car’s race.  Thereafter the Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12C continued to run spectacularly until co-driver David Hobbs had a driveshaft break and lose a wheel.  The Big Cat’s presence had been a great spectator attraction and a full two-car team for the 1977 European Touring Car Championship series was then planned.

Silverstone was the XJ12C’s only event for 1976 as Ralph Broad and his team concentrated on more development work on the car.

The new 1977 season XJ12C racer, which would battle the BMW CSLs in the 1977 European Touring car Championship was considerably more developed and lighter than the 1976 car and included a new paint scheme, modified front spoiler, new rear 'ducktail' spoiler, 19 inch wheels, removal of the power steering and even more power.  The last engines in 1977 had dry-sump lubrication to combat oil surge, but it was too late and did little to help.

Driver-wise, Bell was joined by Andy Rouse (Broadspeed engineer and British Touring Car Championship driver), John Fitzpatrick and Australian Tim Schenken, an experienced F1 racer.

At the first round at Monza , Fitzpatrick qualified on pole position, again upstaging the BMW’s.  But there was a problem.  Jaguar had already lost two engines in practice due to oil surge problems because of the high cornering forces, the same issue that had troubled other teams the previous year.  From the start Fitzpatrick took the lead in the four hour race and disappeared into the distance.  But after a little over an hour the engine cried enough - the car had spun its crankshaft bearings.

The Austrian Salzburgring round saw the Jaguars of Bell/Rouse and Schenken/Fitzpatrick qualify on pole and fourth position.  At one point the Jaguars were 1-2, but eventually both cars were out with driveshaft failure.

The cars did not compete at the next two rounds of the ETCC as Broadspeed and Jaguar tried to find an answer to the driveshaft problems.

At the 3/12 hour long CSSR Grand Prix Brno, Czechoslovakia, the XJ12Cs took both spots on the front row of the grid, but they were both in trouble within a quarter of an hour; gearbox failure took out the Bell/Rouse car and only a fantastic display of sheer determination from the Broadspeed mechanics got the sickly Fitzpatrick/Schenken Jaguar home in a lowly 16th.

Mugello, Italy , saw more heartbreak; neither car started.  Broadspeed withdrew the Jaguars before the start of practice, still working out a solution to the crippling driveshaft problem.

For the German Nürburgring round Jaguar brought 12 engines with them, although there should have been a simple solution to their oil surge problem: from July 1st (nine days previous), the dry sump system Broadspeed had developed was finally allowed but inexplicably it had not been homologated, so therefore couldn't be used.  Fitzpatrick qualified his XJ12C on pole position before setting an extraordinary new lap record for the class from a standing start on the opening lap.  But, yet again the same old oil surge problem struck and he was out on lap two.  Bell and Rouse brought their car home for a well-deserved second place.

Success continued to elude the Broadspeed team for the remaining races of the 1977 ETCC season.  The Dutch Zandvoort round in August 1977 saw a cold and wet practice in which the Jaguars only achieved third and fifth on the grid.  But after just ten laps the Jaguar's rear tyres overheated and its pace slipped until eventually retiring with a broken differential.  The Fitzpatrick/Schenken car was fitted with a dry sump system for the first time - which lasted for 8 minutes, then the pump failed.  A beefier type was fitted in the pits which was an improvement, it held for 39 minutes.  The next pump change took 56 minutes and lasted only 9 minutes, the last one took only 40 minutes to fix - and then the car finally retired with engine failure.Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12C original, unrestored (2013)

The September 1977 Tourist Trophy at Silverstone was a decent outing as both Broadspeed XJ12Cs filled the front row of the starting grid and Schenken led from Rouse at the start.  The Jaguars had to pit for fuel twice this race while their big competitor, the Alpina team, only had to stop once , not surprising when comparing a big V12 against a 3.5 litre straight six.  Therefore, the big cats had to create a gap big enough to win, but the Alpina BMW managed to stay in touch.  When Schenken spun in the drizzle, Quester was second and started to attack Rouse.  He managed to pass and after the first Jaguar pit stop Fitzpatrick retired with a broken rear driveshaft. Bell took over from Rouse, Walkinshaw from Quester and Bell took the lead again, its lead growing when the BMW ran into temporary brake trouble.  The Jaguar had to stop again for fuel, and Rouse charged off in search of the now leading BMW.  He closed the gap to 10 seconds before he spun into retirement only 9 laps from the end; he was classified as finishing fourth.

Zolder , Belguim, marked the last appearance of the Broadspeed prepared Jaguars, even though the ETCC season hadn't ended.  After running second and fourth in the early stages, the two Jaguars were both back in the paddock after an hour and a half.  Fitzpatrick/Schenken, had been in the lead then dropped to second and finally were out with a dropped valve.  Rouse and Bell retired with gearbox woes.

Leyland pulls the pin

The Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12C was a sadly infuriating what-if?  In hindsight, it was unfortunate that British Leyland denied the team a third season's competition.  With the XJ12Cs fully developed and equipped with the dry-sump engine it seemed likely that the Coupes could have been race winners and there is no doubt that during 1976-77 the car was much quicker than its BMW CSL competition.  But the CSL by then was a race-proven commodity with reliability the Jaguar could only dream of.

Derek Bell probably summed it up best in an Autosport interview when he stated “I enjoyed the cars, and they could have been very good, if they had persevered a little longer.”

British Leyland pulled the plug on the operation and the Broadspeed XJ12C roared no more, at least at an official level.  The cars were sold to privateers and collectors, and saw success in more colloquial championships, ironically with most of the reliability problems ironed out.

Links to interesting Broadspeed Jaguar XJC material

Broadspeed XJ12C photo album

Broadspeed XJ12C  April 2010  (Movie):  This 1977 Broadspeed XJ12C (BEL JC 004) had been purchased in 1997 by Peter Sloss of Just Jags in Sydney Australia .  In this video the car was being farewelled by local Jaguar enthusiasts as it was being prepared to be shipped back to England, where it had been sold.  Turn up your speakers and enjoy the sound.

Broadspeed XJ12C  April 2010:  As above but a slideshow version

Broadspeed XJ12C  2013  The same car as above, back in England and for sale at JD Classics

Broadspeed XJ12C  2010 Goodwood.  The restored (perhaps over-restored) original 1976 race car

Broadspeed XJ12C  On the track with the Big Cat.  Turn up your speakers and enjoy the sound

Broadspeed XJ12C  2015:  Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya

 

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