Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR)
Tom Walkinshaw Racing is a British racing and development company that was founded in 1976 in Kidlington by well-known touring car racer Tom Walkinshaw. Walkinshaw was born in 1946 and started racing in the late ’60s, first in amateur races and later in a Formula Ford. However, he preffered touring cars and participated in a number of series, eventually winning the British Touring Car championship in 1974.
Since he was always interested in the mechanics and development of racing cars, it seemed like a natural next step when he founded TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing) two years later and started constructing parts and whole cars for private teams. Apart from the TWR engineering firm, he also started an eponymous racing team. The first major projects of TWR were modyfing BMWs for private teams. However, Mazda soon developed the RX7 race car project for BTCC. TWR did extensive conversion of the small Japanese sportscar and won BTCC titles two years in a row in 1980 and 1981, with Walkinshaw in the driver’s seat for several races.
This success opened the doors of big companies for TWR; soon after developing a Range Rover for the 1982 Paris-Dakar Rally, British Leyland contacted TWR for handling their racing program. TWR started working on two racing cars. One was the Rover Vitesse 3500 and the other one was the very successful Jaguar XJS V12.
Despite being a big sedan, the Rover proved to be very agile and won many races (Spa, Nurburgring…) even becoming one of the first DTM champions. Jaguar was even more successful, winning in BTCC and ETCC (champion in 1984) and racing in USA and Japan in the same fashion as in Europe. With the success of Rover and Jaguar, TWR’s reputation grew and the team became famous for “making slow cars win races”.
In the mid ’80s, after the retirement of Rover and Jaguar touring cars, TWR was hired by British Leyland to develop Jaguar’s Le Mans program or endurance racer for Group C, which was their biggest challenge up to that point. The new car was to participate in the World Sportscar Championship (WSCC) and the IMSA GT Championship in America.
TWR’s creation was named the Jaguar XJR-6 and it was a prototype racer which participated in both of the series under minimal modifications. The logistics and drivers proved to be difficult since the series were held in different parts of the world, however, TWR managed to pull it off. The big investment made by Jaguar and great effort put in by TWR paid off and TWR Jaguar cars won the WSCC outright in 1987, 1988 and 1991. It also won the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1988 and 1990, which is an enormous success and total domination in the class in the late ’80s.
Apart from a string of successful racing cars, TWR also produced a few road-going cars inspired by the success on track, in fact some of them even shared bits of the technology. The first was the Jaguar XJR-S a special version of the standard XJS coupe but the most interesting were XJR-15, the fully road-legal Le Mans car and the ultimate Jaguar hypersports car and at one point the fastest car in the world, the XJ220.
During the ’90s, TWR was involved in the prototype class producing Nissan R390 GT1 racing and the road car. It also participated in BTCC, partnering with Volvo. However, the ’90s marked TWR’s participation in Formula One. First, Tom Walkinshaw was the technical director of Benetton Racing Team in 1992 and later he became involved with Ligier and Arrows teams. However, the collaboration didn’t prove to be very successful despite Walkinshaw’s knowledge and skills.
In the 2000s, TWR produced many racing cars for various clients but the owner’s declining health prevented him from achieving more notable success. Tom Walkinshaw died in 2010 but the legacy of TWR and its fantastic race cars will surely live forever.
Photo: guardian.com, autowp.ru, f1-fanatic.com, topspeed.com, ultimatecarspage.com