Tom Walkinshaw – Man And Team

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Touring Cars, Sportscars and of course Formula One.

There are relatively few corners of motorsport where Tom Walkinshaw didn't have an interest at some point during his career, either as a driver or a team owner, and very few fans who won't have the mental image of a TWR – a team so inextricably linked with the man it almost seems unnecessary to say what t TW stood for – car seared somewhere on the memory.

For Touring Car fans it could be the British Racing Green Jaguars or Bastos liveried Rovers of the 1980s. Personally, for me it the ungainly looking Volvo 850 estates that TWR fielded in 1994, bringing the Swedish marque back to racing. For sportcars fans it will be the Silk Cut liveried Group C Jaguars TWR ran to Le Mans 24 wins in 1988 and 1990, the team scoring a 1-2 in 1990 with the XJR-12. For followers of F1, the succession of Arrows cars that followed his buy in of the team in 1996 – the blue and white creation which Damon Hill so nearly took to victory in Hungary in 1997 or the orange cars, adorned with the logos of that bright mobile phone network, that the team used until their demise in 2002.

Tom and TWR's finest hours? The XJS-12 that won Le Mans in 1990

But it was in Touring Cars where TWR began, and where the loss of Tom Walkinshaw, who died on December 12 aged 64, will be most keenly felt.

Walkinshaw was born in Midlothian, Scotland and began his racing career in various single seaters categories, first in Scotland, then England. However a move to the British Saloon Car Championship (the series which would become the BTCC) in 1974 but Tom in an area where he and TWR would be most comfortable.

A handful of seasons in Fords, driving and developing their racers, began the Touring Car connection, followed by campaigns in BMWs, where TWR began after their foundation in 1976. However, it was 1979 before the three letter acronym really took hold, Walkinshaw running a Mazda RX-7 in the British championship. Win Percy joined him in 1980 and took the championship with a perfect winning record in his class over the ten race season.

1981 saw a first successful foray into the European Touring Car Championship when an RX-7 shared between Walkinshaw and Chuck Nicholson won the Silverstone round of the championship. Walkinshaw's driving career would peak in the ETCC. A relationship with British Leyland saw TWR take the Jaguar brand into Europe and after two successful seasons with Walkinshaw well placed in points he won the driver's championship in the Jaguar XJ-S in 1984, ably assisted by Germans Hans Heger who took second in the championship.

That success, and two subsequent seasons with the formidable Rover Vitesse gained TWR the contract to run Jaguar's endurance racing team.

TWR's first Jaguar foray, the XJ-S in the ETCC

In a series of cars not only run, but built and developed by TWR, the two Le Mans wins were accompanied by wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona in the same years and three World Sportscar Championship titles. In what some might consider one of the greatest eras at the Circuit de la Sarthe the Silk Cut Jaguars, under TWR's guidance were often a class above the rest, and remain some of most recognisable cars ever to take on Le Mans.

Jaguar's exit from sportscars in 1993 left a void in TWR's workload, even after modified versions of the final car had been supplied to Mazda and Porsche, but this was soon filled by bringing Volvo into the British Touring Car Championship, with that estate.

Awkward looking and not very fast, but the big, square machine was actually an advantage in some areas, thanks to the extra weight over the rear wheels, an advantage Rickard Rydell put to good use putting the car third on the grid at Snetterton – before stalling on the warm-up lap and having to forfit the slot. Even when the estate 850 was pensioned off after just a year in fanour of the saloon version it was not down to a poor season, but because the revolution of rear wings that had sparked in 1994 suddenly left it at a massive disadvantage. But, like with the endurance Jaguars Walkinshaw and his team were given the opportunity to develop a series of race cars. Improvement followed improvement through the years, culminating in the reward for a drivers' title for Rickard Rydell in 1998.

That Touring Car - the ever present acronym, TWR, front and centre on the car

The only area where Walkinshaw really failed (and everything is relative in a career as accolade filled as his) was Formula One He was part of the team at Benetton that pushed Michael Schumacher to his first world title in 1994, but Walkinshaw's apparent role in some of the controversy – Schumacher was twice disqualified during the season – saw him demoted to a role at Ligier of 1995, the French squad effectively Flavio Briatore's B-team at the time.

An unhappy time at Ligier – and a failed attempt to buy the team – was followed by a move to Arrows in 1996. A renaissance in 1997, with world champion Damon Hill at the team and the prestigious no.1 on the nose proved a false dawn. Hill left for Jordan after just one season and Arrows would never again see the podium as they slipped down the grid before an ignominious exit in 2002 after their drivers Enrique Bernoldi and Heinz-Harold Frentzen deliberately failed to qualify for the French Grand Prix.

Arrows' collapse brought TWR down with it, forcing the Australian wing of Walkinshaw's firm to give up the Holden Racing Team outfit it ran in V8 Supercars.

With that fact in mind it was fitting that Walkinshaw's new company – Walkinshaw Racing – began to make its first gains in 2008, in Australia. Buying HRT back from former driver Mark Skaife, Walkinshaw added an extra two car team in 2009, which in 2010 ran two Holdens (a far cry from the Fords that began his life in Touring Cars) under the Bundaberg Red Racing name.

But while, in the racing world, it is Walkinshaw Racing that will feel the most force from the loss, it is the TWR years which that same world can look back on to reflect on Tom Walkinshaw's stellar career.

Tom Walkinshaw 1946-2010

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