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When Tim Schenken built racecars

TIM Schenken is better known nowadays for his time as a high-ranking motorsport official, a career that led to him being awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia and his induction in the Supercars Hall of Fame.

His time behind the wheel is also extremely well known; Schenken started 36 Formula 1 grands prix between 1970 and 1974, a run that included a podium finish with Brabham in the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix along with a period as a factory sportscar driver for Ferrari.

But in between those two careers, he was also a race car manufacturer.

Schenken put his engineering nous to good use by forming Tiga Race Cars in 1974 partnering with New Zealander Howden Ganley, who himself also reached the sport’s highest level.

Through Tiga (comprised of the ‘TI’ from ‘Tim’ and the ‘GA’ from ‘Ganley’), Schenken and Ganley produced more than 400 race cars until the original run ended in 1989.

These ranged from Formula Ford to Le Mans class winners, as the Tiga brand proved a successful manufacturer in most categories it built chassis for.

Alfredo Costanzo won two Australian Drivers’ Championship titles in Tiga cars. Pic: an1images.com / Dale Rodgers

Formed to pursue a Formula Ford 1600 project, Tiga bought existing manufacturer MRE and set about building a chassis, which was successful on debut at Mallory Park.

Selling 21 Formula Ford 1600s in its first year and moving into the ex-Fittipaldi F1 team headquarters in 1977 led to further expansion into other categories, and success in Europe, America and Australia.

Tiga’s Formula Atlantic chassis won back-to-back Australian Drivers’ Championships in 1982 and 1983, driven by Alfredo Costanzo in a team run by Porsche distributor Alan Hamilton.

Another Australian in the form of Neil Crang was a customer then a stakeholder in Tiga Race Cars as he spearheaded the marques push into the competitive World Endurance Championship, then in the midst of its Group C prototype era.

British touring car ace Gordon Spice and Ray Bellm won five events on the way to winning the C2 Class title in 1984.

This led Tiga to race at Le Mans in the famous 24 Hour.

Crang and Spice drove their Tiga to a 10th-place finish at the Sandown WEC round in 1984. Pic: an1images.com / Dale Rodgers

The C2 effort spawned from Tiga’s successful run in Sports 2000 during the late 1970s for open-top sports cars leading to generations spread from SC77 and SC89 proving successful not only in Europe, but the US as well.

Further success came in 1988 when Tiga secured the IMSA Camel Lights Championship for Manufacturers, but this failed to improve the manufacturer’s fortunes.

Ganley sold his stake in the company during 1987 before it ran into financial difficulties in 1990 when Chevron Cars saved the day to absorb Tiga and continue to provide parts or restoration services to owners.

Tiga under new ownership attempted to re-enter prototype sports car racing more than a decade ago, but this failed to appear.

This story also appears on the Repco Garage website.

For more news and content like this story, as well as videos competitions and podcasts, visit the Repco Garage here.

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