Nevertheless, Tomlinson, who, like most pundits, expects a fresh set of Le Mans regulations to be announced in 2020 for the 2022 racing season, reckons the stars have aligned for him. The new rules are likely to require hybrid powertrains and will probably be drafted to entice Peugeot back to La Sarthe, but in the meantime there’s an opportunity for the go-getters from Yorkshire. They’ve already completed encouraging tests
of their Mechachrome-powered car in the Williams wind tunnel, and are well advanced with attracting customer teams to race it.
This is big stuff for a company that for the
past 59 years has made its living providing simple, enjoyable front-engined race cars for almost everyone, from talented 14-year olds to professionals who need the power of a Chevy V8. Right now, Ginetta runs no fewer than five highly successful championships of its own.
Tomlinson grew up in Batley, West Yorkshire, and trained as an engineer straight from
school, but his career has since been directed
by dominating themes: an abiding love of cars (and latterly helicopters) and an entrepreneurial spirit that drove him, at the age of 23, to borrow £500,000 from the local bank and buy his parents out of a care home they owned.
He soon turned that into a network of homes, selling some and keeping others, and established parallel construction and software businesses to help them run better. By 2011, the Sunday Times estimated his net worth at £550 million.
However, there’s much more to Tomlinson than money. Entrepreneurial skills, for one thing: he has a string of honorary doctorates for his achievements in industry. Political awareness is another trait: he was Entrepreneur in Residence in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in 2013-14, working to help embryo businesses by removing red tape and boosting growth. He also created an almighty stink over banks’ treatment of small companies during the recession and it is work that continues today.
Despite all this activity, Tomlinson has always found time to run a career as a successful race driver, usually racing TVRs until he bought Ginetta in 2005. In the beginning, Tomlinson’s plan was to buy TVR itself. He and TVR’s then-owner Peter Wheeler were close to a deal until so-called Russian mini-oligarch Nikolai Smolenski arrived, figuratively speaking, with a suitcase full of money. “I thought Peter and I had an understanding,” says Tomlinson. “You know a deal between Yorkshiremen is good when both parties are equally unhappy.”