HTC Competitor Profile: Tony Pallas and the Ex-Garry Willmington Group A Jaguar XJ-S


HTC Competitor Profile: Tony Pallas and the Ex-Garry Willmington Group A Jaguar XJ-S

Veteran Heritage Touring Cars competitor Tony Pallas will be racing the only Australian Group A Jaguar XJ-S to have raced in the Australian Touring Car Championship, Garry Willmington’s Jaguar XJ-S, at Muscle Car Masters this 28-29 October. Fans of many-cylindered muscle should pay attention.

The car was built and developed by Aussie privateer legend Garry Willmington. He bought the 1983 XJ-S used, building it up into a race car and putting it onto the track for the first time in 1985. As a 1985 car, it’s one of the earliest Group A cars competing in Heritage Touring Cars today.

The car has extensive racing history, including two runs on The Mountain. In 1985 Willmington competed in seven rounds of the Australian Touring Car Championship, the AMSCAR series at Amaroo Park, Bathurst, the Adelaide Grand Prix, Sandown 500 and the Pepsi 250 at Oran Park.

Tony Pallas ex-Garry Willmington Jaguar XJ-S

Image: James Smith Photographic

1986 saw Willmington back behind the wheel of the XJ-S, tackling five rounds of the ATCC and returning to AMSCAR, Bathurst, the Sandown 500 and the Adelaide Grand Prix.

The XJ-S’ best performances included a podium at AMSCAR in ’85, 5th in the Pepsi 250, an impressive 14th in the 1985 James Hardie 1000 and victory in an AMSCAR heat in 1986.

Following the 1986 season, the Jaguar factory withdrew the model’s FIA homologation, effectively ending its Group A career. From there Garry developed it to suit Sports Sedan specifications and raced it extensively there.

Having spent the first two decades of its life with Willmington it moved to Tony Pallas in around 2003. Tony and his son Takis restored it, returning it to its Group A specification, and put it on the track with Heritage Touring Cars early in the history of the series.

Tony Pallas ex-Garry Willmington Jaguar XJ-S

“Since my youth, I’ve always wanted to get involved in motorsport, but with work and family commitments, we never quite had the time or the money to devote to it. As times changed and we eventually had the time I started doing sprints with the Jaguar Drivers Club at CSCA events as well as regularity in historic events.”

“My parents had always had Jaguars; my dad got his first in 1953. That passed on to me, and I still have a nice collection of them. I race them because I love the cars and their history.”

“When we bought the Willmington XJ-S we didn’t have plans to race it. We restored it for its historical significance. It’s the only Australian Group A Jaguar XJ-S to have raced in the Australian Touring Car Championship, so it plays a significant role in Australian motorsport history.”

Tony Pallas ex-Garry Willmington Jaguar XJ-S

“My friends were encouraging me to take it out, so, nearly ten years on, we’re still running it in Heritage Touring Cars events!”

“Garry Willmington actually approached me when he wanted to sell the car. My Mark 2 was a concours-winning race car, and he knew that I would do a good job restoring the XJ-S. It needed a lot of work and, because at the time I had no plans to race it, I bought it with some reluctance.”

“I gave it a lot of thought and realised that it would be a fun project. My son and I rebuilt it together and we’ve been slowly refining it and developing it to fit me.”

“When you buy race cars you think they’re setup the best that they can ever be, but that’s not always true for part-time weekend warriors! The professionals are incredible drivers, so their set ups are not always suitable for us mere mortals!”

Tony Pallas ex-Garry Willmington Jaguar XJ-S

“We did a lot of work to tune the car to me – mostly suspension work. The engine is exactly the same as when Garry had it. There’s not much that you can change in the Jags. The engine is basically a road engine with slightly higher compression and the rest of it is all Jag parts, nothing too special. But it’s not hard to make them go if the regulation allowed further modification.”

“When Garry developed the car, he knew he was on to a good thing because of the suspension and the engine. It’s a robust engine, very reliable and simple in operation.”

“The factory didn’t give Garry any development help, while they had developed the factory cars to the nth degree with a lot of success and it was all available. Those cars are a lot more developed than Garry’s car.”

“In racing he did very well – it’s the only privately-entered XJ-S that ever won a race in the world. He won an AMSCAR heat at Amaroo Park in 1986.”

Tony Pallas ex-Garry Willmington Jaguar XJ-S

Image: James Smith Photographic

“Heritage Touring Cars is a wonderful group to race with. Being able to race next to people like Bob Holden and all of these guys is brilliant.”

“Bob’s been a great encouragement to me and it’s fantastic to have him in the club. I’m very thankful for his encouragement, as I am for Garry Willmington’s support – he is a fantastic fellow and always offered me his advice. I’m also very thankful for everyone behind the scenes and all of the volunteers who give us this opportunity to go out and race.”

“I just love my Jaguars. So, when you boil it down, I just want to drive them and race them as much as I can while I can.”

Muscle Car Masters will be held at Sydney Motorsport Park over the 28th & 29th of October, 2017. Get out there to catch all of the Heritage Touring Cars action alongside Group N, Production Touring, V8 Kumho Touring Cars, Sports Sedans and the Master Blast demo. For more information on the event, hit this link to the official website.

Stay tuned to for more from the Legends of Bathurst.

Tony Pallas ex-Garry Willmington Jaguar XJ-S