Legendary Jaguar Champion Bob Tullius is Featured Guest at Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion
Bob Tullius, the driver who helped re-establish Jaguar’s name in North American motorsports and took the Jaguar factory back to Le Mans for the first time in 31 years during the mid-1970s through the ’80s, will be a featured guest at this year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, which will take place Friday August 19 through Sunday, August 21. On Saturday, Tullius will address a host of vintage car racing enthusiasts during “A Picnic with Jaguar” to be held on the Center Lawn of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.
The Picnic has become a hit at the annual historic racing event, and allows audiences tointeract with the greats of automobile racing’s past present and, perhaps, future. The picnic is sponsored this year by Jaguar North America, which is the event’s featured marque for 2011.
In addition to Tullius’s attendance, three of his Group 44 team’s Jaguars—the 1974 Jaguar E-Type that won a string of seven races and the 1975 SCCA B Production National Championship; the 1978 Jaguar XJS that three years later wrested the 1978 Trans-Am Championship Category 1 title from defending champion Porsche; and the Jaguar XJR-5 that went on to win 12 IMSA GTP races—will all be part of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion’s Jaguar Heritage Display.
“I was born to be a race car driver,” said Tullius, who is now in his ’70s and lives within a stone’s throw of the famed race track in Sebring, Fla. “It didn’t really manifest itself until I was in my late teens, when I felt strongly that this was the direction I wanted to go. As for the success of Group 44 it is like any business, it takes a number of things to make a success. The companies that rise to the top have strong leadership. Leadership by example is the best thing for any company big or small. I was a better than average race car driver, but picking the right people at the right time to do the right job was my forte, and I was very successful in doing that. It was that group of people who over the years won races and satisfied our sponsors. The alliance with British Leyland was workable because I wanted to win, and they were willing to support us. The result of our collaboration lead to success on the race track which lead to Group 44 selling cars for Jaguar and selling oil for Quaker State, so we were quite satisfied with that. We started out with about three or four people in our shop and we ended up with 45 people and 40,000 square feet of shop space for the race cars, tractor trailers and airplanes.”
In Europe, names such as Roy Salvadore, Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorne and Graham Hill helped create the legend of Jaguar, but in the United States, it was Bob Tullius and Group 44–one of the most successful teams in SCCA and IMSA racing–that set the pace for Jaguar’s success.
“The Jaguars I raced were all great cars, but of course the E-Type was the production-based car I won most races with,” said Tullius. “In those days Corvettes were dominant until we came along with our E- Type Jaguars. It was particularly satisfying to beat the Corvettes, which we did with great regularity with the E-Type in sports car racing, and then with the XJS in Trans-Am. We weren’t quite as successful in GTP racing because of a severe handicap imposed by the sanctioning body. We had to run a normally aspirated engine against turbocharged cars. We won 12 races in the four or five years we ran in GTP, and we were regularly among the top three finishers. The first time we won a race in the XJR-5 was particularly exciting, but I must say that winning the SCCA National Championship in B Production with the E-Type was the high point of my racing career.”
Tullius added that being a race car driver is the only job he has ever had other than a sales position he held in his youth prior to racing. “I’ve never raced in vintage racing, but it’s satisfying to me to see Group 44 cars still racing. I do enjoy watching vintage racing, but I drove race cars professionally for around 30 years, and I don’t know that I need to drive any more now as a hobby.”
Jaguar History Lesson
When Sir William Lyons founded his Swallow Sidecar Company in 1922 he could not possibly have imagined the success and longevity of his establishment. The SS cars, as they were known from 1935 until the end of WWII, set a new standard for sports car design. When the name was changed to Jaguar after the war, the company introduced what was considered then to be some of the most beautiful and competitive cars on the road. The Jaguar XK120, with a six cylinder twin cam engine that propelled it to 120 mph (hence the designation XK120), was introduced in 1949, and along with other British sports cars helped introduce the American public to European sports car style and performance. In the hands of some of the racing greats of the day, this car created excitement that carries on today in vintage car races around the world.
Although the glamorous Jaguar sports cars and race cars created the excitement for the marque (the XK120 was followed by the XK140 and then the XK150 as speed of the cars was increased), it was the world-class full size passenger cars that represented the sales volume for the company. In the 1950s and ‘60s, the Mark VII, Mark VIII and Mark IX represented elegance and luxury, while the Mark I and Mark II combined comfort with performance in a slightly smaller frame. In recent years the XJ6 and XJ12 carried the banner, and today’s Jaguars–the 2012 XF, XK and XJ models, along with the all-new XKR-S–exhibit all the class, style and performance that their predecessors created while honoring the former company slogan, “Grace… Space… Pace.”
At this year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, over a dozen Jaguar E-Types, which are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, will compete in Rolex Race Group 3A (Jaguar Invitation Class) on Saturday at 1:00 p.m., while Jaguar XK120s will have their spotlight in Group 5B (1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars) on Sunday at 2:45. Also on Sunday, Jaguar C- and D-Types can be seen racing, respectively, in Groups 1B (1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars under 2000cc) at 1:00 and 3B (1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc) at 1:50.
For added enjoyment, all cars will be practicing and qualifying on Friday, giving fans a chance to see all 550 cars on track throughout the day.