Historic Rallying is one of the fastest growing branches of motorsport in Europe with thriving championships in geographically different countries such as Sweden, Italy and the UK. Swedish entry lists are full of huge Volvos, the Italians, rallying mainly on tarmac, love their Lancias and UK entry lists are chock full of Escorts – but do include a few Talbot Sunbeams. Historic rally competitors in Ireland and the UK just love their Escorts but, while they appeared in huge numbers in seventies and eighties rally entry lists, nobody has really, really loved Sunbeams in the ‘new’ historic rallying era. Well, not quite nobody, because one man has made it his life’s mission to love the car and that man is London based businessman John Leahy.
In the ‘Golden era’, as we now fondly think of it, John was a successful co-driver in first Avengers and then Sunbeams and while these were mainly pushrod engined cars John was more than aware that the Lotus versions were winning major trophies with Henri Toivonen dominating the 1980 RAC Rally and the factory Talbot team winning the World Rally Championship for makes in 1981 and when in 2005 the opportunity to purchase what was probably the most iconic of these cars, the Andrews Heat for Hire sponsored car of Russell Brookes, John didn’t hesitate. The next step was to get Brookes back driving the car and the former factory driver didn’t hesitate in taking up the opportunity and admiring spectators just loved to see Brookes not just entertaining them but with excellent results in events all over the UK and Ireland such as Race Retro at Stoneleigh, Goodwood Festival of Speed, Rallyday at Castle Coombe and Killarney Historic stages.
Through all this John was painfully aware that the Sunbeam was not featuring at the top of the resurgence of Historic Rallying and hatched a plan to persuade a current top driver to use the car in major events. John is originally from Waterford and still had many connections with Irish rallying and set his sights on young Cork driver Owen Murphy. A programme of events was agreed and Murphy, the current Irish Forestry Champion, soon had the car setting top stage times and all the hard work was rewarded with a brilliant 5th place on the very tough RogerAlbertClark rally in November 2013, only dropping from 3rd when punctures intervened on the final stages. The result was consolidated by 4th place on the following year’s Mid Wales Stages.
In the midst of all this success John, who prepares the car himself, became very aware that works specification parts were just not available for the car. To continue running it at the highest level and provide opportunities for the many leading drivers who had discussed with John about changing to a Sunbeam, something had to be done. Retrobeam.co.uk is the answer to this and John has had remanufactured all the key bits necessary to build a works replica Sunbeam Lotus ready to take on the best of the Escorts and Porsches that currently dominate and these parts are available here.