The motor sport community is in mourning following the news that Tom Walkinshaw has died following his battle with cancer. In Formula 1, Walkinshaw ran the Benetton, Ligier and Arrows teams, but is best known for his role in turning Benetton into a 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. But his 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 BTCC and ETCC before moving to Jaguar, where 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 V8s' 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 it had commissioned TWR to work on its new mid-sized car. But despite this, Walkinshaw will 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 him arguing with Roland Bruynseraede'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 flag, later claiming he had not seen them. Walkinshaw continued to argue as Schamcher raced: 'Honestly Roland, he didn't see the flags,' he argued. And argued. And 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…