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Group C: The Rise and Fall of the Golden Age of Endurance Racing: Tiga Race Cars

Submitted by on March 12, 2024

By Marcel Hundscheid / Speed-O-Graphica

Next up in our long running Group C retrospective series, we dive back into the mid ‘70s, when two former Formula 1 drivers, Tim Schenken from Australia and New Zealander Howden Ganley founded Tiga Race Cars in the UK.

The company was known for various types of racing cars, ranging from Formula Ford to sports cars for the World Sportscar Championship. Schenken raced at Le Mans in 1973 as a Ferrari prototype works driver with a sixteenth place in 1976 as his best result. Ganley gained more success at La Sarthe with a second place during the 1972 edition driving alongside Francois Cevert in a Matra MS 670.

In 1984 the Tiga GC84, also known as GC284, appeared with a Ford Cosworth DFL V8 engine. The car was an evolution of a sports car originally built for Australian racer Neil Crang back in 1983. For the 1984 24 Hours of Le Mans, Crang teamed up with Gordon Spice and Ray Bellm under the Tiga/Spice Engineering flag. Unfortunately, the team ran into engine problems and their first participation in Le Mans was unsuccessful. However, once the engine problems were resolved, the GC84 proved to be a formidable car. At the end of the year the GC84 won the World Championship in the C2 class.

Building on the success of the GC84, the GC85 was introduced in 1985 also known as the GC285, in fact an evolution of the earlier GC84. Gordon Spice, Ray Bellm and Mark Galvin took a class win at Le Mans, finishing fourteenth overall. Spice entered the GC85 as a Spice-Tiga for the World Championship and alongside winning at the Le Mans they were crowned World Champions in the C2 division. The Tiga GC86/GC286 for the 1986 season was a development of the GC284 and GC285, both designed by Howden Ganley. The car was in fact Tiga’s first ground effect C2 and IMSA Light sportscar.

Several types of engines were used, such as the Mazda 13B rotary, Cosworth DFZ, Chevrolet V8, Ford BDT and even one from a Porsche 962. For its first season in 1986 this car was powered by a Ford Cosworth BDT-E 1.7 litre turbo engine, but by the time they got to the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1987 the engine was replaced by a Ford Cosworth DFL 3.3 litre V8. The final outing for the GC86/286 was in the Interseries.

For the 1987 season Ganley modified the GC86/286, resulting in the Tiga GC87/287. Tiga was unable to build on the successes of previous years with the GC87/287. Just a single victory in the World Championship was scored, while the brand kept on struggling in the American IMSA championship. Later that year Ganley sold his company. Before Tiga Race Cars ceased operations in 1989, the GC288 (1988) and GC289 (1989) appeared.

In a next episode of the most important Group C cars we focus on TOM’s and Toyota.

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