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Jaguar's racing Godfather dies

2010-12-13 08:59

QUICK CAT: The Tom Walkinshaw-prepared Jaguar XJR-9LM restored British pride at Le Mans during the late 1980's.

One of the last great self-made racing personalities, Scotsman Tom Walkinshaw, died on Sunday aged 64 after a battle with cancer.

Walkinshaw was a tough competitor armed with a strong technical grasp of vehicle engineering dynamics. He won the Scottish Formula Ford championship in 1969 after becoming infatuated with racing cars as a child.

Beyond his driving talent, Walkinshaw’s shrewd business sense saw him establish Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) in the early 1970's.

Walkinshaw went on to win the European Touring Car championship in 1984 with a Jaguar XJS before preparing the famous British brand’s assault on the prestigious Le Mans endurance race during the late 1980's.

Jaguar's Le Mans 24-Hour victories in 1988 and 1990 cemented TWR’s reputation as a racing consultancy of note and accelerated the career of a then unknown engineer called Ross Brawn...


Afte moving to Benetton as engineering boss in 1991 Walkinshaw was instrumental in recruiting Michael Schumacher and helping him to his first championship in 1994. He independent turn of thought and occasionally abrasive personality saw him leave Benetton for Ligier in 1995 before acquiring a majority stake in the Arrows F1 team soon afterwards.

Walkkinshaw's empire, despite TWR’s success as a racing consultancy (it prepared the legendary BTCC Volvo 850 station-wagon racers of the mid 1990's) and his growing success in Australia with a Holden HSV V8 racing team and associated aftermarket tuning products, collapsed under the strain of Arrows as both businesses went into receivership in 2002.

The last few years of his life saw Walkinshaw operate a specialist Holden HSV aftermarket conversion business (plainly called Walkinshaw Performance) from near his home in Oxfordshire, England. Most of his effort, though, was poured into managing the Gloucestershire Rugby Football Club - of which he was chairman.

For those who never saw him drive and wonder what calibre of wheelman he was, well, just click on the clip below...

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