A nervous introduction to the late Tom Walkinshaw became extra tense after a mishap with his Jaguar
I only met Tom Walkinshaw once and in less than ideal circumstances. I was looking after Autocar’s road test desk and he’d lent us the XJ220 that TWR had developed from scratch for Jaguar. And when I say the XJ220 I mean his XJ220. Car 001.
We’d driven it to a Welsh mountain with a Ferrari 512TR in convoy where we came across a couple with whom we exchanged pleasantries. But they latched onto us thereafter, so to deal with this familiar problem we drove each car across said mountain at artillery-shell velocity. Duly the man stated an urgent need to return to work. Not wishing to seem rude, we enquired what work that was. “I’m a traffic copper, working nights.”
Such tests often produce a good story and we thought that was it. But no. We left for a test track where we were to meet Walkinshaw. Knowing his reputation I was nervous about this, rather more so when we crashed his car on the way. A large, unsigned roundabout appeared at the exit of a curve we’d pitched into as fast as the cars would go. The Jaguar led, and from behind the wheel of the Ferrari I watched its trajectory as it drove up to and over the top of the roundabout.< The damage was more messy than mechanical so we drove on, trepidation mounting. We arrived to be greeted by Tom's assistant Fiona Miller; I asked how he might take the news. "Either he'll be completely fine, or God help you. There's no way of telling. I'm quite interested to find out myself." By the time the TWR helicopter landed we were quivering, my chum blurting out his apologies before the rotors had stopped. Tom strode over to his car, surveyed the damage, extended a vast arm around my colleague's shaking shoulders and said simply, "shit happens". Walkinshaw could be difficult, but to the many who knew him well he was an inspiration. Right then I could see why.