Former F1 team owner Tom Walkinshaw died today aged 64. I last saw him at Silverstone on Grand Prix Sunday, where he looked thin and ill after a long struggle with cancer.
In his prime he was a burly, forceful man, very tough and determined, not afraid to upset people to get his way. I first encountered him in the early 1990s when he controversially persuaded the board of the BRDC to buy some of his garages, a move which enraged many members. I was news editor at Autosport magazine at the time and worked on that story, so had to speak to him on a more or less weekly basis over many months until the whole thing was resolved.
He had a long career in touring cars, sportscars and F1. He was at the Benetton team in the early 1990s, partnering Flavio Briatore in building up the engineering side of the team. He was central to the hiring of Michael Schumacher, having had a taste of the young German’s talent in sportscars, where his Jaguar team had the measure of all the Mercedes drivers except Schumacher. Walkinshaw and his team had to devise a separate strategy for periods when Schumacher was in the car relative to the other drivers.
He was certainly very active, spreading his business across all kinds of disciplines and continents, with the result that he spread himself a bit thin and came unstuck at times.
He got control of Arrows and had big plans for the team, but ran into money problems and ultimately couldn’t build it up to a Williams or McLaren level.
He was very important in the careers of many well known names in the sport most notably Martin Brundle and Ross Brawn, both of whom had long associations with him.