The car we'd be competing against was a 1994 Mazda RX-7 (FD gen) from Jordan Innovations in Irwindale, CA. Owner Jeff Jordan had swapped in a Vortech-supercharged LSA V8 on AEM Infinity engine management. It was rated "in excess of" 1000whp and had a modified BRS Autodesign widebody to ensure it could accept 295/35 R18 Nitto NT-05 tires all the way round, providing ample traction.
Built as a Time Attack racer, check out its ridiculous spec list in the separate panel and you'll see Jeff brought a howitzer to a gunfight. We were hoping for a "chipped" Lexus ISF, or something... Maybe a Scion FR-S turbo... Not a bloody racecar!
With experienced driver Robert Baltazar at the wheel of the FD RX-7 "ringer," we decided to level the playing field by enlisting the help of multiple import drag racing champion and drift racer, Stephan Papadakis. He would know the best way to launch the Jaguar XKR-S GT and certainly give us a fighting chance.
After a couple of practice launches in the parking lot, experimenting with the traction control, Stephan was pretty confident. "Dude, we've got this in the bag!" he grinned. "Admittedly, I don't know what the Mazda RX-7 can do, but there's surely no way it can launch as hard as this..."
As it turns out, Steph's launch technique (a little bit of throttle to prime the transmission, while holding the brakes) and the car's Dynamic Mode traction control was enough to fire the XKR-S GT off the line like an aircraft carrier's steam catapult. It left Robert and the RX-7 in a cloud of wheelspin, made worse with each gear change as the car snaked up Irwindale's eighth-mile. One win for the Jag, which recorded a time of 8.413sec at 91.45mph - a respectable speed for such a short track.
As it transpires, the FD RX-7 had adjustable traction control, which was switched off for the first run. Crossing the line in 9.514sec at 72.06mph clearly wasn't close to the car's potential, although so much power would always cause traction problems - something we secretly hoped couldn't be completely resolved that night...
For the second run, Jeff activated the traction control, then encouraged Robert to warm the tires with a full burnout, and he duly obliged. Meanwhile, Steph avoided the water and snuck through the burnout box to wait for Robert at the start line. With all its electronics, he saw little need to warm the Jaguar's tires and risk the transmission.
As the lights went green, both drivers were already on the power. Steph's incredible timing - he claims to see when each filament in the starting tree bulbs are going out - combined with the Jaguar's Dynamic Mode traction control and shift patterns, saw it again launch hardest and fastest. Steph's reaction time was an impressive 0.218sec, compared to Robert's 0.574, but this time the RX-7 had hooked up.
It was ahead by the 60ft mark, and at 330ft, and crossed the finish line first with a time of 8.03sec at 92.51mph, compared to 8.863 at 88.9mph for the Jaguar.
Despite a good launch, the GT was significantly slower than its previous run, so Steph decided to try a manual launch on his third attempt. He extinguished the traction control altogether and would shift with the paddles himself.
So as the cars lined up, with one win apiece, this was the decider. Would power beat finesse? Could Steph uphold Euro honor?
The amber light sequence flashed and engine revs reached a crescendo as the green illuminated. The rear wheels on both cars were already spinning and again Steph got the jump. His reaction time was just 0.181sec and, for the third time of asking, the Jaguar was out of the blocks first.
By the 60ft mark, they were still close, but the RX-7 had pulled level, gaining a 0.5sec advantage by the 330ft mark. With minimal wheelspin, the Mazda dispatched the eighth-mile track in 7.783sec at 90.79mph, pulling out a couple of car lengths over our plucky Brit.
With a time of 8.421sec at 92.8mph, it was a similar run to the Jaguar's first attempt, but this time it had been convincingly beaten.
Away from the track, Stephan suggested, "I might be able to improve the time by a couple of tenths, but so can the RX-7. I'm sure there's no way I could find the 0.6sec I'd need to have beaten him this time, and that's assuming he doesn't get any faster."
At this point, we realized we should have requested a "best of five" runs contest because the race officials excluded the Mazda for exceeding the noise restrictions with what could best be described as a painful exhaust note. We'd have happily won by default!
So in the end, our 1-of-25, $175000, 550hp Jaguar XKR-S GT succumbed to what was, in reality, a one-sided fight. It put up a valiant effort but couldn't overcome the RX-7's power and weight advantage. However, it proved that the Jag is anything but a high-strung exotic. It's capable of being down 'n dirty, and we could have run all night against modern Detroit iron that would have been closer competitors. However, we decided to save the Jaguar's time slips as a memento of what will surely be the only drag racing exploits ever attempted by the XKR-S GT; happy to have both taken part in a historic occasion and to have caught it all on camera and video.
2014 Jaguar XKR-S GT
5.0-liter AJ133 Gen III aluminum V8 DOHC 32v, direct injection, dual independent variable cam timing, Eaton twin-vortex supercharger, dual intercoolers
Sequential Shift six-speed automatic transmission
six-piston monoblock calipers, 15.7" carbon-ceramic rotors f, four-piston, 15" r
Adaptive Dynamics active and height-adjustable dampers, stiffened twin-coil springs, wider front track, increased camber, uprated bushings, new steering system, faster steering ratio
Wheels & Tires
20x 9" f, 20x10.5" r forged wheels, 255/35 R20 f, 305/30 R20 r Pirelli Corsa tires
carbon fiber splitter, twin dive planes, diffuser and rear wing, louvered hood, wheel arch extensions, front undertray, trunk spoiler, GT graphics
16-way electric Performance seats in leather and suedecloth with R-S GT embroidery, black suedecloth headliner and steering wheel
550hp at 6000-6500rpm
502 lb-ft 2500-5500rpm
$174895 (inc D&D)