Group 44 was the first team to introduce the Jaguar XJS into racing. British Leyland Inc had been impressed enough by the team's ability to prep and run the E type, which had won two SCCA B production titles. Bob Tullius was aware of the E type potential to win further races, and the new V12 engine could make the E type chassis even faster, but British Leyland was unwilling to back such a car, which was, according to Jaguar CEO, rather obsolete. So, the XJS would be the way to go, and the future of Jaguar racing. Group 44 had been chosen by the Jaguar headquarters to run and make the Jaguar XJS win. It was not thanks to Lord Stokes, who had seen no interest in getting the XJS to the track, but rather to Michael Dale, who was British Leyland's Vice President of Sales. An enthusiastic supporter of racing, he would work closely with Bob Tullius to develop the XKS.
Chassis 2W51120 was shipped at the beginning of 1976 and be used as a basis for the racing XJS. As for the E type, the preparation of the car would be overtaken by Brian Fuerstenau and Lawton "Lanky" Foushee. The car was shipped as a street car, and would be stripped from its sophisticated road equipment by the latter. This very first year would be a year of testing as no XJS had ever been raced before. The engine was not modified, but it was fitted with six double choke Weber carburetters. A manifold was provided by John Mangoletsi from Forward Engineering, which was a well established parts provider for Jaguar cars from the fifties. The most important modification to the engine was a dry sump lubrication system. At this early stage, the engine was given for 475hp at 7600rpm. Rubber was replaced with solid bushings in the suspension while the steering arms were bent to shorten the distance between them and the steering rack.The car was equipped with heavier springs and roll-bars. The rear discs were kept inboard. The brakes featured Lockheed rotors , (8 piston calipers) were installed at the front of the car, while Girling ones were installed at the rear.The Group 44 team, which was run by Bob Tullius along with friend Brian Fuerstenau was, according to Alex Park, who was a Motoring News journalist, economically efficient and successful. That meant that they could be run without an official support, according to the British Leyland headquarters. They were backed by Quaker State, which was an oil manufacturer. A very professional team, indeed, but they had to do the most part of the job . It was a shame! The very first race of the car was scheduled for Watkins Glen, which was part of the World Championship for Makes. Poor weather deterred the team who was unwilling to sort the car in such conditions, so they took the decision to run the next event, which took place in Mosport. While running well, the XJS, which was running in the Category I class, experienced some trouble with the oil temperature. Bob Tullius had to run free of any other car, to help his car getting cool! While running well, he had to slow down and settle for fourth in class. The team had opted not to run the IMSA before the end of the season, and showed up at the Daytona Finale.
Copyright Dave Kutz
Bob Tullius, in the meantime, had carved out his first victory at Lime Rock in a regional race. He was well placed to earn yet another National title, but it would not be so. The IMSA Finale was another practice session, in real time, as the car appeared to be some kond of boiling machine. The result was to be forgotten. That very fist season was a test one, but the car proved undoubtedly competitive. Some extra job had to be undertaken, for sure. Lanky Foushee would do the job for the next season. It had been decided to run the entire 1977 Trans Am season. In order to be more competitive, a complete rebuild of the car was done by Lanky Foushee. The engine had been improved and was now giving 540hp, which was somewhat respectable. Bob Tullius had a tough debut, winning at Seattle and Westwood, but then his closest opponent who was John Bauer, who was more consistent, took the Championship lead. Bob Tullius was second, and he had no other choice than winning more races on the end. That's what he did, in the end, as he won three races out of six. He was the 1977 Category I Champion. However, the Manufacturer's title fell into the hands of Porsche, which had more cars and gathered more points thanks to this fact. The only appearance for the team would be the traditional Daytona Finale. Starting thirteenth in a field dominated by Porsche 934s, Bob Tullius ran as high as fifth in a race considered by many as one of the wildest ever. After being red-flagged, it was restarted, but Bob Tullius would retire due to mechanical problems.
A new chassis was built for the next season : 44-1. Lighter and more powerful(560hp), the aim was clearly to win both the Drivers and Manufacturers Trans Am Championships. In fact, after a difficult start, Bob Tullius virtually won every race until the end. The three last races saw two Jaguar XJSs for the first time, with Brian Fuerstenau earning some additional points to secure the Manufacturers title to Jaguar. It would be Brian Fuerstenau last year of racing, as he would concentrate later on the team's technical developments. The Jaguar XJS made a single appearance in IMSA racing in 1978, and it was once again at the Daytona Finale. The car was entered in GTO, and proved worth the competition, as it settled for second inqualifying behind Kenper Miller ultra fast BMW 3.0CSL.The race saw Kenper Miller dominating, but he had to retire on lap forty four. At the end, it was Rick Thompkins Chevrolet Corvette who emerged as the winner. Bob Tullius and Brian Fuerstenau ended up second, which was an excellent result, in such a context. The 1979 season would be rather different, with British Leyland willing to boost the new Triumph TR7 sales. This car was pretty different from the Jaguar, and fitted with a Rover 3,5L V6 engine given for 400hp, it could do well despite the loss in terms of horsepower compared with the Jaguar. The main difference was that the car would be entered mainly in the IMSA Championship. While being faster than the competition most of the time, the team did not win the 1979 and 1980 IMSA Championship.
Bob Tullius won three races in 1979, but finished 3rd in class while he and Bill Adam took second and fourth in 1980. The car was certainly less fun to drive than the Jaguar, but it had proved fast. The XJS had been parked for two years, but a new set of rules was crafted in order to revitalize the series, which had lost its attraction power. Tubeframe cars were now allowed to compete in a new professional series. Graham Whitehead was proud to announce the return of the XJS. It surely had a special meaning to him!
A brand new car was built by Lanky Foushee, out of a sturdy tubular frame around which to attach lightweight body panels. It was a true racer, as the engine was placed 7 1/2 inch further back. A Frankland NASCAR type quick change differential and inboard discs were used. The engine was given for 525hp, but due to the overall weight, the new car was a real rocket. Bob Tullius was confident about his ability to win the Trans Am Championship, and he won three races out of ten. In fact, he lost the title to Eppie Wietzes' consistency and took second. A real disappointment for the team, this time due to the car's sophiscated components, which sometimes failed him. 1981 was a rewarding year, however. The tubeframe car was supposed to be raced again in 1982, and a deal had been contracted with Gordon Smiley to run it again in the Trans Am series. Unfortunately, Gordon Smiley's death led the project to an end. The XJS had been entered in its last event, which was the 24 Hours of Daytona. The car, which was the tubeframe one entered in 1981 in the Trans Am Championship, was so sophisticated that it was moved up to the IMSA GTX class.
Copyright Norbert Vogel
While extremely fast, the car, driven by Bob Tullius and Bill Adam had a troubled run. it would be the last appearance for a Group 44 XJS. From this moment, the team would concentrate on Jaguar's future in racing. A brand new prototype was under way, and would debut at Road America, in the hands of Bob Tullius and Bill Adam. A new era would era would be ushered, but that's another story.
One could wonder why the Jaguar XJS was never entered on a regular basis in the IMSA GTO Championship. The car had the potential for sure. Bob Tullius and his teammates surely knew all the answer.