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A few thoughts on Tom Walkinshaw
A few thoughts on Tom Walkinshaw
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Dec 2010   |  12:41 am GMT  |  60 comments

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.

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Don't forget his involvement in Australian touring cars James. Though I think some of the engine suppliers to his Arrows team did not have a high opinion of him, after he promised money and never delivered.


Check out http://www.walkinshaw.net/history/history.html

for some info and photos of the road going Aussie Group A car he jointly created.

Love the 80's Silk Cut Jaguars. Love them. Still do. Long live Tom.


Who can forget his pitwall presence in the 1990s? A man who achieved great things in his life. Tom shall be remembered.


Whatever your faith, I am sure we all agree that our thoughts & prayers go to his family at this time.

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live" John 11:25


Did he have involvement in Australian touring cars in the 80's and 90's?


In the mid 80s he brought the Group A Jaguar XJS's to Bathurst which they dominated. In the 90s he bought the Holden Racing Team. He produced a few Walkinshaw special model Commodores for Holden as well.


He brought his group A Jaguars out for Bathurtst when that class was a world championship, and he partnered with Holden to establish Holden Special Vehicles from 1987. The Holden Racing Team carried that collaboration on track, and there were various inter-relationships with satellite Holden V8 teams. He managed and partially financed Craig Lowndes' unsuccessful tilt at F3000.


Indeed he did, even presently as a team owner of a Holden team license, was a major part of the lead Holden team, plus he had a signature VL Holden Commodore named after him, a classic Holden of the late 80's


RIP Tom Walkinshaw. I'll remember you for you involement in F1, but I'll best remembered you for your involvement in Bathurst and the legendary 'Walkinshaw Special' Holden Commodore VL's that were powerhouses of their time on Australian roads and race tracks.


Controversial indeed, he certainly put a lot into both F1 & motorsport. For many people he will always be remembered for those heady days at LeMan with the Jag's. After splitting from Benetton it was pity that he could not turn Arrows into a front runner, F1 would have been better with a team driven by the likes of TW than without.


Back in 1970 Tom and Ian Ashley drove for works March F3 team. Harvey and I were the mechanics. He was fast, tough, but nice and fair guy.

I have signed photos of both of them in the March703's.

I last met him more some 20 years later at Silverstone and was amazed that he immediately recognized me.

As it happens I met his son Fergus only a few weeks ago at Brands Hatch and I hope he will do his dad proud in the Ginetta G55 championship.


(also one time F3 driver)


Very sad to hear this. TWR own the HRT V8 supercar team here in Oz so his loss will be felt.


Sad to hear of his death. As an Aussie my most vivid memory of Tom is when he brought those gorgeous green Jags to Bathurst in the 80s.

James if you'll permit me to post a link here, here's the man himself taking pole in 1985 at "the mountain": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9I7GWllPFY

RIP Tom. Thanks for the memories mate.


There ya go,very Tom, proper balls out driving, on the white line, none of yer flappy paddle semi auto gear changes, a real gearstick with H pattern gate. He obviously could have done with a bit more power early on in the lap. Remember that brief time we had the Bathurst on telly in the UK, terrific exciting stuff. It would be great to have over here again if it's still going.


This year's race was live on Motors TV UK


Motors TV UK? Sounds interesting I will investigate. Thanks


Terrific link, that. Thanks for sharing.



Wow , you can really feel the sense of speed in that video , just amazing.


Hey James,

Can you explain the issue of separate strategy for Schumacher during the sportcar races?

This would be an interesting topic in its own right. Is this topic referenced in any of the Schumi biographies (including yours)?


Yeah, I'm not sure that James is being entirely truthful when he says the "Jaguar team had the measure of all the Mercedes drivers except Schumacher." Perhaps he was talking about the Mercedes Junior drivers because Jean Louis Schlesser was WSC champion in 1989 & 90. He had more points than Schumacher in 1991 too despite driving the outdated C11 for much of the year, while the junior drivers drove the new but troublesome C291.


Be mindful that Schumacher had to share the car. Therefore points would not be an accurate indicator, as you would have to compare not only Schumacher's and Schlesser's performance, but also that of their teammates.

Also, you can't bank on letting a C291 dash off into the lead assuming it will fail. As an opposing team, you would need to assume that your opponent has perfect reliability and optimize your strategy accordingly. Therefore, if Schumacher was fast in the fast-yet-fragile C291, then obviously strategies would need to be changed to take that into account, rather than accepting defeat, aiming to come in ahead of the old C11's and hoping the C291's break.


Only going on what Ross Brawn told me. Whenever I saw them Schumacher was very fast in that car.


I miss the Arrows cars and recall them often for some strange reason.


Arrows trialled those experimental winglets at the front of the cars, they were nicknamed "towers" and "dumbo ears" especially in Monaco, they were subsequently banned for impeding drivers vision.. They might have been banned for being ugly as well


Another sad loss to the sport.

I sort of 'met' him in about 1984. I was working part-time in a petrol station and filled his car with petrol! It was only after he'd driven off that my colleague said 'That's Tom Walkinshaw'. As I was yet to get properly in to motore sport, I'm afraid I replied 'Who?'

He was well-known then for the TWR Jags and Rover road cars (one of which he was driving on the day). TWR I had heard of!


RIP. I still remember this red supercharger mounted on top of the engine of Vauxhall VXR Bathurst S - http://www.carmagazine.co.uk/upload/19211/images/7VauxhallVXR8BathurstS.jpg


RIP Tom W.


No one can forget the TWR Volvo 850 estates.


Indeed. The famous British Towing Car Championship of 1994. Fond memories.

Sorry to hear of TW's death. Love him or not, he was a proper racer and a genuine original.


One issue that followed him was not paying creditors- Cosworth were owed big time.

Great car person - driver team owner though !


I was fortunate to work for "Uncle Tom" for 15 years within TWR. I would not have travelled to the places that I have, with some of the most exotic sports cars without his drive and determination. He made things happen and will be sadly missed by me.

RIP Tom.


My abiding memory will be of his team, Arrows, at the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix when Damon Hill drove the race of his life to lead the race after brilliantly passing Michael Schumacher early on, sending Murray Walker bezerk!! Alas a mechanical problem robbed them of what would have been a famous victory! An amazing achievement amongst many im sure you'll agree James?

RIP Tom Walkinshaw


Remember it well. I backed Hill to win that race at 150/1, he was always good there and the Bridgestones were likely to make a difference. I was gutted when he slowed with a couple of laps to go. Pure torture and very sad for a team that never won a GP.

RIP Tom.


Definitely. That was all about going with Bridgestone tyres. Walkinshaw did a lot to help Bridgestone and that was a good payback


Condolences to the family



Holden Racing Team and F1 Fan


That's really sad, I didn't realise he was ill, so it came as a wee bit of a shock to read that. I think one of my most pleasurable GP's to watch was Damon Hill almost winning for Arrows, correct me if IM wrong, but in Hungary 97? I just remember my heart sinking when I watch Damon shaking the car from side to side to try and solve the problem and JV got him right at the end....

anyway, as a Scot myself, it's very sad



My interest in Motorsport was sparked by those gorgeous Rover SD1 touring cars he used to drive. He will be missed.


I'd not been aware that Tom had been unwell, so this was a shock when I read it today.

This is a man that lived and breathed motorsport. From F1 to sportscars and Touring cars.

I'll never forget that day that Damon nearly won in the arrows in Hungary. I have rarely been so gutted about a retirement in formula 1.

He will be sadly missed. RIP Tom.


But what did you think about him James?


Glad I didn't have to do business with him.


But I bet that is true of most team owners past and present.

Frank Williams sacks world champions, how tough a boss is he?!

I'm sorry to hear about Tom Walkinshaw, i'm sure he had more to achieve.


R.I.P. Tom.


I cannot stress what a huge contribution Tom brought back to the UK along with Jaguar by his massive determination in working to get the Sportscar Jaguars back to winning at Le Manns -

We had gone years and years without a true British win and this massive achievement cannot be stressed highly enough. Of course we fought the might of Porsche but it was such a huge mountain to scale.

Thankyou for all your Saloon, Sports, F1 and Ozzie V8 participation you achieved so much and were a true Team Manager. ( Volvo's Winning a saloon Championship are you crazy.)

Thanks Tom, I personally loved everything you did.

Condolences to Toms Family.

( Although not the right place to add this - I can remember watching MS at 2.00am and he was a sheer joy to watch at Le Mans - the Merc going through the Esses power oversteering when every single other car was off throttle - He stuck out like a sore thumb - we stayed up another hour just watching this kid in a Merc. )


Does anyone know what type of cancer he had?


I recall he was instrumental in bringing Schumacher to Benetton in 1991. Don't forget he also pulled off a real shock in getting Damon Hill (as World Champion)to Arrows!

A major force in Motorsport Management throughout the 80's and 90's and also a very handy driver as well.



As the former MD of Cosworth Racing i met Tom on many occasions and always enjoyed his company. He was a true winner and i will never forget The Australian GP in 1997 when Damon Hill was trying to qualify his Arrows car. Things did not go well for him and Tom was to be seen addressing the problem by attacking the coke machine at the back of the pit garage. The coke machine lost! great Scot and a great loss

Brian Dickie


I never knew Tom directly but came into his arena in the BTCC as I worked for the sponsor of a rival team. His reputation then was fierce, macho and reputedly not averse to bending the rules. At the time It was either Tom himself driving with Win Percy or later Andy Rouse; TWR prepared Rover SD1s rumoured by most of the grid to be over bored to almost 4 litres, however Tom repeatedly faced down attempts to check this by declaring that the cars were available to test but whoever tested them would have to pay for the rebuild, no one dared.

His later involvement with the BRDC was not appreciated by many, in particular because the Silverstone ticket prices leapt upwards soon after he was installed.

Strange feeling when someone your own age dies, especially someone so tough.

A major force in the many different genres of the sport. If not loved by all, then certainly respected. The John Wayne of Motor sport.


Sorry, but good journalism would surely require a less sanitized article. Walkinshaw, in his dealings with the FIA, sponsors and later the British courts, was more than controversial. He tested the limits of the rules -- which does not make him unique -- but then sometimes went well beyond them.


Mmmm. Well I know what you mean, but when talking about the recently dead, there are certain codes of behaviour I always think. Something like what you are referring to is perhaps for a later date


Its interesting that despite most journalists and readers of blogs accepting he pushed the rules of business too far and wouldn't want to do business with TWR, there is a huge amount of admiration and respect for the guy. Controversy was always nearby, but I think it was the 'can do', give it a go attitude that everyone liked, and I was pleased and surprised that he was trending on Twitter today.


I put Tom up there with Sir Frank, he had that fighting spirit to keep the team moving forward and in difficult times as we remember at arrows, he has achieved great success too outside F1 too. As James pointed out, he gave great names in the sport a chance to mechanics and key people in F1.

All my condolences to Toms family at this times, he was a great man indeed.


I remember Tom affectionately from my involvement with Mazda Cars and he was a strong, highly focussed and lovely man. I am truly sorry to learn of his death and would like to pass on my condolences to his family. God bless you Tom.


I had the pleasure of meeting Tom at the inaugural US GP of 2000 at the Arrows hospitality suite. He fondly recalled meeting my folks in the US at one of the rounds of sports car racing in the 70s. Personally, I always thought he was always just a few bob away from the big time in F1. He will be remembered fondly and sadly missed.


I also recall the Arrows team at that first Indy GP round. Their paddock fan/merchandising area was wonderful. The team seemed genuinely happy to be there and they were just fun to be around. That had to be down to Tom Walkinshaw's own attitude toward being in the States, and I tip my Orange Arrows cap in salute to him.

My condolences to the family.


my thoughts go out to toms family at this sad time. i was a 14 year old when i first met tom in the brdc when i was a helper of barrie williams doing the british saloon car championship at the time, we met many times and i will always remember he when he took me for lunch one day at oulton park on good friday after practice which was a great thing for me, it was also great that he remembered me when he did the the bmw county championship years later. i have very found memories of toms kindness to me as a young lad and i have never forgotten it. rest in peace tom you were a star.



I met Tom on several occasion swhen I worked for him in the late 80's always calm he had an air of authority about him and a remarkable ability to remeber names. I once discussed with him the merits of the Porsche 944 turbo I was driving at the time after that he always said hello and remembered my name


Don't forget his involvement with Rugby and taking the game professional. Up to the time of his death he owned 75% of Gloucester Rugby club.


Also don't forget the TWR chassis that not only did amazingly well in Group C, but the one specific chassis that was re-used by the Porsche-backed Joest team to win two Le Mans 24h races back-to-back... the same chassis! If that isn't solid engineering, I don't know what is...


It is a sad time, to loose Tom to Cancer so early in life is a terrible thing and while he had his time leading the motorsport charge his family still need him, condolences to them.

I worked at TWR from 88 to 03 and it was a fantastic company to work for, all down to Tom's leadership.

Just A Bloke (Martin)

I was at studying at Coventry when the TWR Jags first won Le Mans, if nothing else Tom brought Coventry to a standstill when the Group C machines toured round the city. TWR, Allan Scott in particualr even provided input to my final year dissertation on automotive electronics !

Amazing, as for the Volvo estates.......Those were the days.

Charismatic, controversial and totally committed, a fantastic antidote to the sanitised corporate world of today

Sincere condolences to family and friends....


I noticed Chris Dyer's twitter feed became private not long after the Abu Dhabi race. Within a day ChrisDyer_SF was deleted altogether. Very interesting, I hope he isn't axed.

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