A TIGER’S TALE
One of the star cars on this year’s Historic Monte was the ex-works Sunbeam Tiger of Jeremy Holden and Angelica Fuentes. It’s the Tiger that contested the Monte Carlo Rally 50 years ago in the hands of Andrew Cowan and Peter Harper (who got it stuck in a snowdrift). Now owned by seasoned campaigner Holden of Holden Vintage and Classic, it’s back on the classic rally scene.
Just over 7000 Tigers were built between 1964 and 1967, and seven works Tigers were used in competition during those years.
For the 2016 Historic Monte, Jeremy’s co-driver and navigator was Fuentes, well-known as Doug Mockett’s co-driver in their Oldsmobile on La Carrera Panamericana and Chihuahua Express, where they have regularly finished on the podium.
As it turned out, the Tiger’s clutch failed with just 92 miles to go and Fuentes’ debut on the event was a steep learning curve for such a highly experienced navigator. She takes up the story:
“In my 30 years of motor racing it’s one of the toughest events I have ever taken part in, and that includes La Carrera and Chihuahua. People take for granted that you must be going on a tour to Monte Carlo, and it sounds glamorous, but it is hard work from start to finish. The first night out of Reims is 20 hours in a car, non-stop. All those little roads are quite amazing, but if you miss a turn you are completely lost, so I was completely spot on with every road we needed to take.
“On the Turini Regularity we passed 15 cars that were crashed into walls, the rock face, a bridge, and it’s very hard to monitor your progress in these circumstances. It was really good fun, but you have to keep an eye on the diversions, and the Regularities are not closed roads so you can easily miss the correct route and there’s no marshal to direct you. If you take a wrong turn you completely miss the stage.
“It’s amazing how quickly the penalty points accumulate: on the first day we were three seconds late at a checkpoint, and suddenly we had 30 penalties, and that sounds nothing, but at the end of the day we were 198th! And then on the second day they changed our target average so I had to recalculate the formula, and we ended up losing three minutes. If you have any mechanical delays you have to start going faster to catch up. I was glad we had proper belts and rollcage, because if you have an incident a 45km/h (28mph) average becomes a 90km/h (56mph) to make up time.
“We didn’t have any snow at all, but the worst one was the last stage where it was foggy and raining. The car was absolutely perfect until the clutch broke; suspension perfectly set up for the hairpins, and powerful, so we could push when we needed to, and the engine breathing wasn’t affected by altitude. The spectators were amazed by the car, and I had to tell them it was OK that the bonnet was open to help the cooling. And it was the only car on the rally that had run in the original event.
“It was all very well organised and I absolutely loved the experience. And now I have a challenge, to finish the event, and I can’t wait to go back!”