Legendary former F1 team boss loses brave fight with cancer aged 64

Tom Walkinshaw, 64, the man who did most to promote Michael Schumacher’s first grand prix victory, died on Sunday after a brave battle with cancer.

Walkinshaw, the Scottish-born former racing driver, boss of Benetton, Arrows and Ligier F1 teams, founder of the TWR engineering empire and chairman of the Gloucester rugby club, was the son of a Scottish market gardener, who became obsessed with cars in childhood and began racing Formula Fords as soon as he could overcome early parental disapproval.

See pics from Tom Walkinshaw's life and career

He rapidly developed a reputation as a quick and aggressive competitor, both on the track and in business, a reputation he was to keep all his life.

Walkinshaw rapidly discovered a penchant for running racing teams as well as driving cars, and formed his TWR business in the early ’70s, organising BMW and Mazda saloon racing teams, among others. His cars became known for robustness, speed, thorough preparation, and for being developed to the very limit of the regulations.

In the early ’80s his Rover SD1s won many flagship British touring car races, but his greatest days came later in the decade when he secured a deal to race Jaguars (and build TWR Jaguarsport road cars). At first he concentrated on racing XJS saloons in European Touring Car Championship events (scoring some big wins and taking the championship in 1984) before founding a Jaguar sportscar team that won three world sportscar titles, with victories at Le Mans in 1988 and 1990. The same team brought engineer Ross Brawn to prominence.

Steve Cropley blog: The Tom Walkinshaw I knewAlan Henry blogs on his memories of Tom Walkinshaw

Walkinshaw moved to Benetton F1 as engineering director in 1991, playing a leading hand (with Flavio Briatore) in the establishment of the Enstone F1 works which Renault continues to use today, and setting Schumacher on the road to his first F1 drivers' title for Benetton-Ford.

But Walkinshaw’s life was rarely without controversy, and after upheaval at Benetton in 1994 he moved briefly to Ligier, then to Arrows, in which he acquired a majority stake. He operated the team, and the rest of the burgeoning TWR engineering empire, from a former telecommunications transmissions base in Leafield, Oxfordshire.

See pics from Tom Walkinshaw's life and career

TWR prospered for a while, but Arrows was never truly successful and the financial drain of F1 saw the two businesses fail together in 2002. After that, Walkinshaw did less in Britain, but maintained racing interests in Australia through the Holden’s HSV team, and some engineering and manufacturing businesses in Asia.

In recent years, Walkinshaw has operated a lower-key automotive business, Walkinshaw Performance, from premises near his home in Oxfordshire, but most of his time was dedicated into managing his beloved Gloucestershire rugby club.

Steve Cropley

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Comments
16

12 December 2010

Just very shocked. He packed a lot into his life , but there should have been more to come, surely ?

12 December 2010

And don't forget that he prepared the cars for Volvo with the 850 and S40 Racing teams that went onto win the BTCC championship in the 1990's, and in a partnership with Volvo produced the C70 in Sweeden

R32

13 December 2010

Tragic and sad news. Contributed so much to motorsport. Will be sorely missed. Condolences to his family, whom I'm sure must be proud of what Tom achieved in his life.

13 December 2010

Sad new indeed. I grew up with Jaguar winning Le Mans as a TWR team and the TWR BTCC wins. Someone who did so much to bring British marques and British motor-sport expertise forward at international level competitions should not be forgotten. RIP Tom and condolences to the family, who as mentioned above, must be proud of his many achievements.

13 December 2010

What sad news, our thoughts go out to Tom's family.

13 December 2010

A big man in every sense of the word.

Why the hell do we rely on charitable donations for cancer research? Cancer Research need public funding for their work. We really need to get our priorities right in this Country.

13 December 2010

RIP Mr W. 1 year older than my dad. :(

13 December 2010

Condolences to the family. I grew up reading about racers and road cars prepared and designed and engineered by his outfit. XJ220, XJR-15, the Volvo touring cars and the early HSV Commodores. RIP!

13 December 2010

Out of the same block as Peter Wheeler - met MR W a couple of times, really top bloke, true Petrolhead. RIP sir, oversteering all the way up to the great race track in the sky I'm sure!

To live is to drive

13 December 2010

Sad news. The loss of another "Big" character.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

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