Jaguar’s track record at Lime Rock Park dates back to Sunday, April 28, 1957 – when 6,600 spectators witnessed the opening day of competition on what had been a sprawling gravel pit in the Berkshire Hills.
Walt Hansgen established the track record, lapping the new circuit in 1:10.4-seconds in famed American sportsman Briggs Cunningham’s D-Jaguar. Hansgen won the C-Modified race, with John Fitch third in the Cunningham team car after a terrific three-car battle in the main event for Class C sports cars. Gordon MacKenzie also finished third in C-Production in a Jaguar XK-120M.
Later that opening season, Bob Grossman win the Lisca Libre race in a Jaguar XK-120. The following year, Ed Crawford won the July 4-5 event over Hansgen, with both driving Lister-Jaguars from the Cunningham stable. Over the following years, sports car racing took a professional turn, while Jaguars continued to make their mark in club racing at Lime Rock, with drivers including Janet Guthrie and Bob Tullius.
Tullius took his Group 44 to the Camel GT series in 1982, as Jaguar returned to endurance racing for the first time in 25 years in the new Camel GT Prototype class. Brian Redman finished second at Lime Rock in a Group 44 Jaguar XJR-5 in 1985, surviving a collision with eventual winner Drake Olson in an exciting battle in the rain.
With visibility very limited with an oil-smeared windshield, Redman was forced to run with his door open to get back to the pits.
Chip Robinson set an IMSA track record in 1986, running 47.59-seconds in the Group 44 Jaguar XJR-7. Hurley Haywood qualified second in 1987 in a Group 44 XJR-9, missing the pole by 0.03-seconds.
Tom Walkinshaw Racing took over the Jaguar factory program in 1988, switching to new cars and Castrol sponsorship. Martin Brundle unofficially lowered the track record to 44.885-seconds in Camel GTP practice, and then finished second co-driving with John Nielsen in a Jaguar XJR-9. The following year, Jan Lammers finished second in a TWR Jaguar XJR-10, beating teammates Nielsen and Price Cobb.
TWR did even better in 1990, taking Jaguar to its first professional victory at Lime Rock. Nielsen and Cobb captured the Memorial Day classic, lapping the field in a Castrol-sponsored Jaguar XJR-10.
Davy Jones qualified second for the 1991 race in a red, white and blue TWR Bud Light Jaguar XJR-16, but the team cars finished sixth and seventh. Jones came back strong in 1992. He won the pole with an official track record lap of 45.857-seconds on Saturday in a Jag XJR-14 powered by a Cosworth V-8 used in Formula 1.
Two days later, Jones recorded the quickest single lap in Lime Rock history at the time during the race, 43.985-seconds, on lap 14. It was all for naught, though, as the New York native crashed in the Downhill on the following lap. That was the final visit of the Jaguar GTPs to Lime Rock.
Jaguar’s next big appearance at Lime Rock was in the Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli in 2002. Michael Lewis finished fourth in a Jaguar XKR, followed by the similar cars of Paul Gentilozzi and Johnny Miller.
Miller swept the table the following year in the No. 64 Eaton Cutler-Hammer Jaguar XKR. He won the pole with a lap of 51.315-seconds, set the fastest race lap of 1:08.468-seconds, and led the final 47 laps to win the race that was shortened due to inclement weather.
The next Trans Am at Lime Rock wasn’t until the Fourth of July weekend in 2010. Current contender Tomy Drissi finished second in that race, driving the Knight and Day Jaguar XKR.