PEOPLE: TOM WALKINSHAW
Name: Tom Walkinshaw
Nationality: Great Britain
Son of an East Lothian market gardener, Walkinshaw became interested in motor racing because a local garage owner in the town of Mauldslie raced Minis. He started racing with an old Lotus FF1600 car in 1968 and the following year won the Scottish FF1600 title driving a Hawke. He then headed south to England to race in Formula 3 in 1970. After an abortive start with a Lotus he joined the March works team but the relationship ended in disarray after his sponsorship did not materialize. Things were not helped when Walkinshaw broke both his legs in a big accident.
Having failed to establish himself in single-seater racing he was hired by Ford to drive touring cars in 1974 and, driving a Ford Capri, won his class in the British Touring Car Championship. After his Ford contract ended Walkinshaw established Tom Walkinshaw Racing in 1976 and that year scored his first major victory with John Fitzpatrick in a BMW CSL at Silverstone. TWR began by preparing BMWs and this culminated with the BMW County Challenge in 1979 and 1980 while Walkinshaw continued to race a variety of different machinery. His Mazda RX7s won the British Touring Car Championship in 1980 and 1981 with Win Percy driving, while in the latter year Walkinshaw shared victory in the Spa 24 Hours with Pierre Dieudonne. After an abortive program with Opel, TWR began to develop touring cars for both Rover and Jaguar. The company also prepared the Paris-Dakar winning Range Rover for Rene Metge and Bernard Giroux. In 1982 TWR began to race Jaguars in the European Touring Car Championship and Rovers in the British series. There was much success but also controversy with the team being stripped of its British title in 1983 when the Shawcross Tribunal of Enquiry ruled that the TWR Rovers were running illegal rockers and bodywork. This resulted in Rover switching to the European Touring Car series where the team competed against TWR Jaguars. That year Walkinshaw won the European title in a Jaguar XJS, including victory in the Spa 24 Hours. This led to Jaguar commissioning TWR to build a sportscar for the Le Mans 24 Hours.
While Rover continued to win in touring cars, Jaguar became successful in sportscars while TWR also began building cars for the IMSA series in the United States and for Holden in Australia. In 1987 and 1988 Jaguar won both the World Sportscar title and the classic 24 hour races at Le Mans and Daytona. In 1991 Jaguar won a third World Sportscar title.
Walkinshaw was elected chairman of the British Racing Drivers Club but was later ousted over a plan to establish the Silverstone Motor Group, the club paying $8m for 50% of Walkinshaw's garage businesses. Walkinshaw later repurchased the shares for $3.5m.
While all this was taking place Walkinshaw had become Engineering Director of the Benetton F1 team and TWR had begun producing roadgoing Jaguar XJ220s for sale to the public and there was a further deal with Aston Martin. In touring car racing Walkinshaw began a new cooperation with Volvo.
In 1994 Benetton won the Formula 1 World Championship despite much controversy and at the end of the year Benetton boss Flavio Briatore decided to move Walkinshaw to Ligier, which he had acquired. Walkinshaw intended to buy the team but eventually fell out with Briatore early in 1996 and bought into the Arrows team.
That same year a TWR-designed Porsche sportscar won the Le Mans 24 Hours while the company also went into business to manufacture road cars with Volvo. In 1997 Walkinshaw put together a strong package for Arrows including Yamaha engines, Bridgestone tires and World Champion Damon Hill as a driver. The team came close to winning in Hungary but at the end of the year Hill moved on and the team ran into financial trouble and struggled until a major new sponsorship deal was done with Orange at the start of the 2000 season.
Unfortunately his attempts to revive Arrows led the team into considerable debt and at the end of 2002 the team went into liquidation. Walkinshaw's TWR Group followed as the company found itself with a $30m debt from Arrows.