Tom Walkinshaw dies
Tom Walkinshaw sadly died today. The 60-year-old had been suffering from cancer. He was a Scottish racing car driver and the founder of the racing team Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR). He was also involved in professional rugby union as owner and administrator of Aviva Premiership team Gloucester Rugby. TWR will always be a brand synonymous with motorsport.
In 1975 Walkinshaw established Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR), a group whose business was the manufacture and design of racing and road cars. TWR ran touring car programs in the mid 1970s and early 1980s. In 1983 the TWR team took an amazing eleven wins in eleven races in the British Saloon Car Championship running Rover Vitesses, before being stripped of the title for a technical infringement. TWR also ran a Jaguar XJ-S ETCC touring car program before taking on their World Sportscar Championship program. In six years the program won Le Mans twice and the World Championships three times.
During his career Walkinshaw ran the Benetton, Ligier and Arrows Formula 1 teams. In 1991 Walkinshaw was recruited as Engineering Director of the Benetton F1 team which subsequently won the 1994 Formula One World Championship. He was involved in the recruitment of Michael Schumacher by Benetton after the German's Formula One debut with the Jordan team. As Engineering Director, his role also came under scrutiny when the team was investigated for suspected technical infringements during the 1994 season, including the potential use of banned electronic aids and unauthorized modifications to the refuelling apparatus used on the cars. Although illegal software was found in the Benettons, the FIA had no evidence that it had ever been used in a race and no action was taken against the team.
|Tom Walkinshaw in his later years|
For 1995 Walkinshaw bought 50% of the Ligier team from Benetton team principal Flavio Briatore. His intention was to take over the team completely, but he was unable to purchase 100% of the team and therefore pulled out of the deal. Instead he bought the Arrows team, achieving a coup for the 1997 Formula One season by recruiting reigning world champion Damon Hill to his squad.
1997 saw Walkinshaw voted Autocar Man of the Year. By this stage the TWR Group employed 1500 employees in the UK, Sweden, Australia and the United States. At the time, Tom was also Managing Director of Arrows Grand Prix International.
His TWR racing group went into liquidation in 2002 after the Arrows team ran out of money. This led to the Australian arm of the operation being bought by Holden Australia. However, since the V8 Supercar Championship forbids a manufacturer owning a race team, Holden had to divest the teams assets and sell the Holden Racing Team to lead driver Mark Skaife, and K-Mart Racing (later HSV Dealer Team) to John and Margaret Kelly (the parents of V8 Supercar drivers Todd and Rick).
In 2005 Tom Walkinshaw returned to the V8 Supercars Australia and began a new relationship with his former teams, HSV Dealer Team and Holden Racing Team, helping lead Holden to its first series win since 2002 through driver Rick Kelly (2006) and Garth Tander (2007). In late 2006 Walkinshaw Performance brought the small Australian sports car manufacturer Elfin Cars. In 2007 Walkinshaw Performance acquired a 50% stake in the Holden Racing Team, and in 2008 fully re-acquired the team from Skaife Sports. 2009 saw the debut of Walkinshaw Racing a two car operation known individually as Bundaberg Red Racing and Team Autobarn.