In November 2008, Jaguar and Rocketsports undertook a secret speed trial, taking an XFR prototype to the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The prototype achieved a stunning top speed of 225.675 mph – making it the fastest production Jaguar ever. The new XFR – the first XF to carry the ‘R’ badge which defines Jaguar’s most performance-focused models – was unveiled on Sunday at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show.
The car – powered by the all-new AJ-V8 Gen III engine – beat Jaguar’s previous speed record of 217.1 mph set in the XJ220 in 1992. Rocketsports owner, Paul Gentilozzi – who successfully led the Jaguar XKR to five Trans-Am Series Championships and a victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona between 2001 and 2006 – drove the car on the record-breaking run.
Running with minor aerodynamic and safety modifications to meet the requirements for a Bonneville run, the 225 mph top speed was achieved with additional horsepower liberated by a remapped ECU, a modified air intake and exhaust system and revised supercharger settings. No internal engine components were changed and the six-speed automatic transmission was standard, including the gear ratios.
All of the XFR prototype modifications for Bonneville were done at the Rocketsports race shop in East Lansing, Michigan, and tested at a private proving ground circuit before making the official run on the salt.
On November 6, under sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-50’s, Gentilozzi climbed into the driver’s seat of the XFR prototype to kick off a two-day run at Bonneville. This was the first time Gentilozzi experienced the famed Salt Flats, as he navigated his way down a six-mile course made of common table salt.
Eight runs were made on the first day, which concluded with a top speed of 219.1 mph – already beating Jaguar’s previous speed record for a production car. At the completion of the first day, Gentilozzi drove the car about five miles to a local gas station (camera crew in tow) to wash the salt from it. While it might have been a sight to see, it wasn’t a surprise to Gentilozzi how well the car handled off the salt on normal roads.
But they weren’t ready to call it quits just yet, as Rocketsports spent the evening working in their temporary home at the Wendover Airport (home of a World War II base and where parts of the movie Con Air was filmed) making adjustments to see if they would be able to reach even higher speeds during their second day on the salt.
The official record time (225.675 mph) was set on November 7. It occurred on the seventh timed run, or the ninth run overall.
“It was an amazing experience to go to the Bonneville Salt Flats for the first time,” said Gentilozzi. “It was even better to go there with Jaguar, a company that we have such a long history with. I was confident with the XFR prototype, but I didn’t know how the salt would react, how it would respond to the car, and what technique it took to drive successfully on the Salt Flats. I learned quickly though, taking advantage of my warm up runs to see how it felt and what to expect. Since it was such a large wide-open and flat area, it made it difficult to find reference points. So I picked out a mountain that was about 30 miles away and lined up the car on top of that mountain so I could stay in a straight line during each run. On the record run, the car got a little sideways going over 200 mph, which was quite the experience for me. Overall, I felt the Salt Flats were fantastic and I can’t wait to go back there again. It was one of the best experiences in my racing career.”
Gentilozzi continued, “Throughout this project, Jaguar was a source of great encouragement and provided us with some of their engineers for assistance. We honestly could not have completed this project successfully without their help. They gave us pivotal support during all phases of the project and were a pleasure to work with. They are hard working, intelligent guys who never failed to do what it took to make this car a success.”
The Jaguar XFR prototype will be on display at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, going on now until January 25, as a part of Jaguar’s new product launch.
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