The motor sport community is in mourning following the news that Tom Walkinshaw has died after a battle with cancer. Walkinshaw ran the Benetton, Ligier and Arrows teams in Formula 1 although he is best known for his role in turning Benetton into a World Championship winning equipe, as well as securing the services of Michael Schumacher following his sparkling debut for Jordan at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1991.
However, Walkinshaw’s name is also synonymous with his exploits as a driver and team owner in Touring cars and, latterly, for Jaguar at Le Mans. Walkinshaw may have won the Scottish Formula Ford title in 1969 but, instead of heading up the formulae, he moved across to Touring Cars, setting up TWR to run his cars. He ran the Rover SD1 in the BTCC and ETCC before moving to Jaguar, with whom he won the European title in 1984 with the XJ-S – the TWR Holdens were also a force to be reckoned with down under and Walkinshaw paved the way for the big-block V8’s arrival as a road car on the UK market.
TWR was then commissioned by an emergent Jaguar to run a factory-backed effort in sportscar racing – and the cars went on to win the World Sportscar title three times as well as winning at Le Mans in 1988 and 1990. During the 1990s, Walkinshaw enticed Volvo into the BTCC with an estate version of the Volvo 850 and, although that car failed to rack up the victories, it was an amazing PR-winning machine. When the T5-R estate was supplanted by the saloon, it went on to win the Championship.
Arrows and TWR went into administration in 2002 and the road car development side of the company – which had assisted with the production of the Jaguar XJR-15, Aston Martin DB7 and Volvo C70 – went down, too, which led to all manner of problems at MG Rover as the company had commissioned TWR to work on its new mid-sized car.
Walkinshaw will, though, always be remembered as the pugnacious Scot, who charged Jaguar back to the pinnacle of front-line motor sport. While he ruled the roost in F1 with the establishment-rattling Benetton Ford, my favourite memory of him will always be his argument with Roland Bruynseraede over the latter’s decision to black flag Michael Schumacher at the 1994 British Grand Prix.
The German failed to come in for an initial five-second stop-and-go penalty and was given the black flag. Instead of coming in and retiring, Schumacher ignored the flags, later claiming he had not seen them. Walkinshaw continued to argue as Schumacher raced: ‘Honestly Roland, he didn’t see the flags,’ he argued and argued – in the end, the Belgian caved in, allowing Schumacher to continue the race to the end after serving a stop-and-go.
Subsequently, the German was disqualified – and the Benetton team received a $500,000 fine… but the point had been made. Walkinshaw was a formidable character…
[Source: Octane Magazine]