The XJC goes racing
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 XJ12C's 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.