Tiger - A Rare Breed in the GT Jungle
The origins of Team Tiger
lay in the classic sports car of the same name – the Sunbeam
Tiger – and their foray into contemporary racing was initiated
by a spontaneous purchase at an auction.
story begins in 1990, when Chris Beighton (right) and Jon Finnemore
became acquainted through
business. At this time, Jon was racing Road Saloons with a degree
of success, but it would be several years before the pair would
join forces in motorsport.
A trip to watch the Manx
Classic (a sprint, hillclimb and autotest, using a small part of
the IoM TT circuit) in 1996 provided Chris with the inspiration,
and in 1998 he purchased a 1964 Sunbeam Tiger, with a view to competing
himself . At this point, Jon, with his racing experience and car
repair business, enters the story. Beighton explains; “I asked
Jon if he’d prepare and run the car for me, though it was
a departure for him, since he was more familiar with modern cars.”
Nevertheless, the Tiger,
repainted from its original blue into the now familiar orange “house
colour”, made the grid for the last round of the Anglo-American
Challenge at Donington and finished in a creditable midfield position.
The next year saw a full season of competition in the same series,
where the pair gradually worked their way towards the front as the
There then followed a
period of domination, as the Tiger collected three consecutive AMOC
Anglo-American Challenge crowns in 2000, 2001, and 2002. During
this period, several wins in invitation races were also posted.
was during 2002 that Chris and Jon (left) made the serendipitous
purchase of the Marcos Mantis
at an auction, way out of kilter with their existing racing canon.
“It looked a good buy, and we had no real plan for it, other
than a bit of fun at trackdays,” explained Chris, “We’ve
no idea of its history, but it had probably been used for trackdays,
but certainly never raced.”
Fortunate, then, that
after a few years of having nowhere to race competitively, the marque
was finding a home for itself in James Tucker’s then-embryonic
Britcar series. The pair entered the penultimate 2002 round at Brands
Hatch in October, and instantly impressed, running at the head of
the field until sidelined with mechanical problems.
The team then embarked
on a full Britcar campaign in 2003, parallel with classic events
in the Tiger. Though they took a win (the infamous “dead-heat”)
at Pembrey, and were always there or thereabouts, Chris describes
their season as “disappointing, with lots of problems,”
owing to the frequent retirements posted.
The close season saw
a lot of sorting for the Marcos, and following advice from Marcos
afficionados such as Cor Euser and Glenn Eagling, a 302 cubic-inch
Mustang engine was fitted, coupled to a new Hewland gearbox, and
a conscious effort made to raise the game, and enter the new Cup
class of the British GT Championship.
They made an immediate
impression with their pace at the first meeting of the year at Donington,
qualifying in the top three for both of the first two races. Although
teething problems meant that they didn’t finish either race
at the Midlands track, it didn’t take long for the team to
show that the early pace was no flash in the pan.
Their crowning moment
came at Snetterton when they won round five in style. The next meeting
at castle Combe was even better, with the Marcos taking a win and
a second place. These results propelled Team Tiger from new boys
to title contenders.
There have been disappointments
along the way, too. Silverstone was a particularly frustrating weekend,
but the team has its sights set high for the final four races.
But all of this is only
two-thirds of the Team Tiger portfolio. Chris also co-owns another
Sunbeam Tiger, the 1964 Le Mans “Lister” car, with Tony
Eckford, in which they contested the initial Le Mans Classic, and
run in the current Top Hat and Gentleman Drivers championships.
This is quite separate from the other classic events, where Chris
and Jon share the orange Tiger. Chris cites the camaraderie and
bonhomie of classic racing as one of its most satisfying features,
highlighted by meeting former Rootes Group racer Peter Proctor (the
original driver of the Le Mans Tiger) – “ …….a
legend, with natural charm.”
All three cars are prepared
by Jon Finnemore’s St Peters Garage in Leicester, a Peugeot
specialist employing seven people. Chris Beighton, a former British
Senior Water Skiing champion, and captain of the British youth squad,
is managing director of Westleigh Homes, which builds over 500 domestic
and commercial properties per year, employing 35 staff, 35 site
agents, and over 150 tradesmen. Westleigh is the major sponsor for
It is one of Chris’s
site agents, Ian Chase, who is the only other regular member of
Team Tiger, wielding the spanners at race meetings alongside Jon.
There is also occasional assistance from Mark Lupton. “We’re
all mates,” says Chris, “we’ve not had to put
a team together and employ people, and we don’t really want
A small, but very successful
team then, enjoying continued victories in the AMOC Anglo-American
Challenge, and various invitation races, and shaking-up the establishment
in British GT. A rare breed indeed.
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