A THRILLING DEBUT AT LE MANS CLASSIC
Stratstone's Lightweight E-type starred in the early stages of the Jaguar Classic Challenge, as BBC Top Gear's Chris Harris raced into the top-three. However, a misfire resulted in an early retirement for the still factory-fresh racer
Saturday, 9th July 2016 The challenge at Le Mans has always been: "To finish first, first you have to finish". The gruelling 8.4-mile Circuit de la Sarthe in the heart of France - with its long straights, where speeds top 150mph - is one of the toughest tests for any race car. It has been ever since Jaguar won five Le Mans 24 Hours victories here back in the 1950s, and continues to be so to this day.
On its first ever race outing, Stratstone's Jaguar Lightweight E-type - chassis No. 3 of Jaguar's 'missing six', or No. 15 if you go by the chronology of the original planned run of 18 cars - certainly proved it has the pace to take on its period rivals in the Jaguar Classic Challenge for victory.
In qualifying, BBC Top Gear's Chris Harris drove the car to an impressive P5 on a grid of 65 cars, while in the race he soon moved the Lightweight E-type up amongst the top-three, thanks to strong pace in the opening laps. Sadly, Lightweight E-type No. 15's racing debut was brought to an early halt at the end of lap five of the 55min endurance race, as Chris was forced to bring the car into the pits with a misfire.
As Chris explained: "Even though we were still running in a good position, we thought that it was better to bring the car in, rather than carry on. We potentially were in the running for sixth, but it wasn't worth the risk of damaging the car. With its first race here at Le Mans, we've proved beyond doubt that Jaguar has built an entirely representative Lightweight E-type. It's totally competitive, it's beautiful to look at, and it's wonderful to drive. It's a shame we had the misfire, but by that point we'd proved the car has the pace for a podium finish, which isn't bad for its first time out."
Finally, a few facts. Harris' best lap of 4m59.229s was just eight seconds off the front-running pace, and was only bettered by four other drivers - including the top-three finishers. Not bad round an 8.4-mile lap that most classic Jaguars were taking well over five minutes to complete.
The Lightweight E-type's top speed of 150.8mph (242.8kph) on the Mulsanne Straight was also the fourth-best of the 63-strong field.
All-in-all, an impressive first outing, we think you'll agree.
To read more from Chris, click here. We also caught up with Pearsons Engineering boss Gary Pearson to get his post-race verdict on the Lightweight E-type's debut. Click here to read his thoughts