Hail a win­ner

The tough Scot made things hap­pen, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Onroad -

IT SEEMS im­pos­si­ble that Tom Walkin­shaw is gone. Big Tom al­ways seemed so un­break­able and un­beat­able, both in mo­tor rac­ing and busi­ness. He worked and hus­tled and bul­lied his way to the top of the car world, even­tu­ally be­com­ing a For­mula One team owner in ad­di­tion to his suc­cesses in Aus­tralia with Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles and the Holden Rac­ing Team.

There was also con­tract work for his TWR op­er­a­tion, lots of it topse­cret stuff, for a range of big brands in­clud­ing Gen­eral Mo­tors,

But lunch didn’t hap­pen and now it never will. In­stead, I’m writ­ing a trib­ute — obituary is not nearly strong enough — to a bloke who be­came a leg­end in Aus­tralia af­ter tak­ing over at Holden when Peter Brock was thrown out of the Fish­er­mans Bend fam­ily.

There was a lot of angst and sus­pi­cion when Walkin­shaw be­came the front man for Team Red.

His early me­dia meet­ings were tough and con­fronta­tional, too, and I can re­mem­ber fronting a bloke with arms like a butcher who was pre­pared to chop down any op­po­si­tion.

Walkin­shaw never cut any­one slack and fools had their fool­ish­ness pointed out to them.

If he didn’t want to an­swer a ques­tion he didn’t. There was a stony si­lence and a bru­tal glare.

But he won peo­ple over with im­pres­sive road cars and suc­cesses on the track that built on his first ap­pear­ance at Bathurst in 1984 and vic­tory in 1985 with a Jaguar crewed by lo­cal hero John Goss. The bot­tom line was sim­ple: Walkin­shaw was pre­pared to roll up his sleeves and get the job done.

He was a charis­matic leader who in­spired great things in his race teams and among his close-knit group of mo­tor­ing spe­cial­ists, as well as fear among his ri­vals.

Yes, he was called ‘‘Cheat­ing Tom’’ by some peo­ple — and there are some great sto­ries about rulebend­ing and more — but he was a racer to his core and near enough was not re­motely good enough. Some­times the rules were just a guide­line.

His ab­sence has been ob­vi­ous at HRT in re­cent sea­sons, and par­tic­u­larly at Bathurst 2010 when Team Red missed his rock-like sta­bil­ity and con­fi­dence. Walkin­shaw was the heart of the team and the crew al­ways lifted for him.

Now I am forced to rewind through many, many meet­ings to try to un­ravel a com­pli­cated man. Walkin­shaw was as tough as any­one I’ve met, yet he had an al­mostimp­ish sense of hu­mour. He loved a joke or the chance for some mis­chief.

He was a won­der­ful host — gra­cious, thought­ful and gen­er­ous.

He was also in­cred­i­bly loyal and com­mit­ted to his peo­ple. They were more like a fam­ily than em­ploy­ees, which prob­a­bly ex­plains a lot of the spats.

Ian Cal­lum, chief de­signer at Jaguar, says sim­ply, ‘‘I love the man.’’

It’s hard to know what will hap­pen to HSV and HRT now, but Walkin­shaw was usu­ally one step ahead of his op­po­si­tion and the busi­ness should be in safe hands.

Walkin­shaw’s own strong hands al­lowed him to build an em­pire and a list of suc­cesses that stretches for decades.

Big Tom was al­most larger than life and will be re­mem­bered in a sim­i­lar way to Brock. He was a hero.

Un­com­pro­mis­ing and con­fronta­tional: Tom Walkin­shaw had lot of suc­cess with the Holden Rac­ing Team.

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