THE EDITOR A DIFFERENT KIND OF “GREAT”
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John Cooper made something of a habit of being the catalyst
for revolutions. On page 54, we look at how his diminutive,
underpowered T43 kick-started F1’s rear-engine era in 1958.
Couple of years later, T54 (ABOVE) did the same at Indy ’ 61.
The easiest ask
ever? Signing up
Marshall Pruett to
write about the
gorgeous Group 44
Jaguar XJR- 5. It
only happens to be
MP’s all-time favorite
IMSA GTP car.
obody designs or builds a racecar for
reasons as amorphous as “greatness.”
Mostly, they do it for more tangible goals:
to be as fast and competitive as possible,
and hopefully win races and championships.
Greatness, however you choose to
define it, might then follow. But more
often than not it doesn’t... In a sport
where, by definition, there are a lot more
losers than winners, that’s always been
the harsh reality of it.
So why did we choose Group 44’s
Jaguar XJR- 5 (RIGHT) as a subject for our
Great Cars issue? Six race wins in 40 IMSA
GTP class starts, zero championships and a
couple of fairly dreadful toe-in-the-water
forays to the 24 Hours of Le Mans are
hardly Hall of Fame material in
themselves. And yet, for reasons beyond
mere results, that car is undeniably great.
On looks and sound alone, it gets our
vote. But the kicker is what it opened the
door for – IMSA’s golden era of big bucks,
factory GTP racing, and Jaguar’s
triumphant second coming at Le Mans,
albeit with TWR’s XJR-9LM and XJR- 12.
Same goes for the Cooper-Climax T43.
The barely-altered Formula 2 car’s
ignominious fate after winning the 1958
Argentine Grand Prix was to be surplus to
requirements, superseded by “real” F1
Coopers. But it had already done enough
to be considered a “great.” As the first
rear-engine car to win a Formula 1 World
Championship GP, the T43 was F1’s shot
heard ’round the world. Thanks to the little
Cooper’s inherent poise and nimbleness –
and Stirling Moss’s genius – front-engine F1
cars were dinosaurs waiting for the comet.
For our cover feature, starting on
page 20, we’ve chosen two great cars –
Ferrari’s 312T2 and the McLaren M23.
Individually, you could argue a strong
case for either one, but the sum of their
parts – that memorable 1976 season
filled with drama and near-tragedy;
James Hunt vs. Niki Lauda – puts it
beyond any reasonable doubt.
“On looks and sound alone,
Group 44’s Jaguar XJR- 5 gets
our vote. But the kicker is
what it opened the door for”