- June 11, 1949
- March 05, 1977
- United Kingdom
- Not Active
Tom Pryce (1949-1977) was a British racing driver who had a short but successful career in Formula One and other open-wheel competitions before he was killed in a horrific accident at 1977 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami Circuit.
Pryce recorded 42 starts in the Formula One World Championship, all but one with Shadow Racing Team, scoring two podiums. His only F1 win was in the non-championship 1975 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch.
Tom left school to become a racing driver
Born in June 1949 in Ruthin, Wales, Thomas Maldwyn Pryce left school at the age of 16 with a dream to become a race car driver. His dreams started to realize in 1969 when he made his first racing attempts at Mallory Park.
First championship title in 1970
Pryce competed in the Daily Express Crusader Championship, a series run by Motor Racing Stables in Lotus 51 Formula Ford cars. The series had a finale in April 1970 at Silverstone, the day before F1 BRDC International Trophy race.
Under the heavy rain, Pryce won a race and a championship, getting a Formula Ford Lola T200, worth £1,500, as the main prize. Pryce parked his new car in one of the old stables at Brands Hatch, also moving himself to West Kingsdown, near the Brands Hatch circuit.
Formula 3 debut in 1971
In 1971, Pryce expanded his racing programme to sports car racing, entering a new twin-seater category called Formula F100. He won the title. In open-wheel racing, he contested in Formula Super Vee, Formula Ford and made a debut in the British Formula 3 in a Royale RP9 of Team Rumsey Investments.
Next year, he scored a notable win in an F3 support race to F1 Race of Champions at Brands Hatch, defeating some established drivers such as Roger Williamson, Jochen Mass or James Hunt. Pryce suffered a broken leg in an accident at F3 Monaco Grand Prix. He stopped at Casino Square and came out of the car when another driver hit him.
In 1972, Pryce was successful in the Formula Super Vee, winning the championship title, and also in the Formula Atlantic with Royale works team, winning season's finale at Brands Hatch.
Racing in Formula 2 with Ron Dennis' team
Pryce continued to race in Formula Atlantic in 1973, winning three races in British series with Royale. The team had the ambition to run a car for Pryce in the Formula 2 but a plan failed. However, Pryce made a Formula 2 debut with Rondel Racing team, owned by Ron Dennis.
He was driving Motul M1-Ford, scoring one podium to finish tenth in the points. At the end of the year, Pryce won the Grovewood award for his efforts during the year.
Formula One debut with Token
In 1974, Pryce made a Formula One debut with newly formed Token Racing team. Backed by Titan Properties, Pryce made a debut in a Token RJ01-Cosworth in the BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone in April, not finishing the race due to a broken gearbox. The F1 Championship debut followed in May in the Belgian Grand Prix at Nivelles. At the wheel of the #42 Token, Pryce crashed out after 66 laps.
After that, Pryce was refused to enter the Monaco Grand Prix as he was deemed "inexperienced". The Token team owner Tony Vlassopulos put Pryce into the support race in the F3 category, which he won with a big advantage.
Joining Shadow and scoring a first F1 point at Nürburgring
During the season, Pryce also had some impressive performances in Formula 2, what brought him a call from Shadow Racing Team to join them in the second part of the 1974 Formula One World Championship season. Pryce made a debut in a Shadow DN3-Cosworth in the Dutch Grand Prix, not finishing the race after a collision on the opening lap.
One more early crash followed in France and then the eighth place at British Grand Prix. In his fourth race with Shadow, in the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring, Pryce finished sixth in the #16 Shadow DN3, taking his maiden F1 Championship point. At the end of the season, one point put him to 18th place in the classification.
Victory at 1975 Race of Champions
Despite some negotiations with Lotus, Pryce stayed with Shadow in 1975 F1 season, next to Jean-Pierre Jarier as his teammate. After starting a season in an old Shadow DN3, Pryce switched to new DN5 in the third round in South Africa.
The fourth race of the season was the non-championship Race of Champions at Brands Hatch. Pryce was the fastest in qualifying, fastest during the race and captured his only F1 victory in a career with a half-minute advantage over John Watson. Pryce became the first Welshman to win a Formula 1 race.
Maiden F1 Championship podium in the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix
In the sixth championship round, the Belgian Grand Prix, Pryce scored one point, and then one more in the Dutch Grand Prix. He was good again in the German Grand Prix, finishing in the fourth place.
And then, in the Austrian Grand Prix at Österreichring, Pryce finally reached his maiden championship podium, finishing third behind Vittorio Brambilla and James Hunt. Later in the season, Pryce picked up one more point at Monza and finished the season in the tenth place with eight points. His teammate Jarier was far behind, in 18th place.
One-off rally attempt alongside David Richards
Pryce also recorded some notable racing attempts outside Formula 1 in 1975. In June, he and John Watson raced in a Mirage GR7 at Nurburgring 1000 Km, not finishing the race.
In December, he participated in his only rally event in a career, driving a Lancia Stratos in the Tour of Epynt. His co-driver was David Richards, future WRC winning navigator and head of the Prodrive, whom he knew from Ruthin. They didn't reach the finish, crashing out into a bridge.
1976 - opening a season with a podium
In 1976, Pryce added one more F1 Championship podium to his CV, finishing third in the season-opening Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. He was on a podium with Niki Lauda (Ferrari) and Patrick Depailler (Tyrrell).
He was good in non-championship races, finishing sixth at Race of Champions and fourth at BRDC International Trophy. In the championship, he scored points two more times, finishing fourth in the British Grand Prix with old Shadow DN3 and fourth in the Dutch Grand Prix with new Shadow DN8. Pryce ended a season 12th in the points.
1977 – the bad start of the season and a horror at Kyalami
In 1977, Pryce stayed with Shadow, getting the Italian Renzo Zorzi as a new teammate and receiving new sponsorship from Italy. In the season-opening Argentine Grand Prix, Pryce was not classified as he completed an insufficient number of laps. In the next race, the Brazilian Grand Prix, a broken engine stopped him after 33 laps.
And then, on March 5, 1977, one of the worst ever accidents in the history of Formula One happened at Kyalami Circuit, taking lives of Tom Pryce and 19-year-old race marshal Frederick Jansen van Vuuren. During lap 22, Renzo Zorzi stopped his Shadow on the track and marshals were approaching him despite the race hadn't been stopped. Pryce's car hit one marshal and killed him instantly. The fire extinguisher that marshal was holding hit Pryce's head and nearly decapitated him.