It brought back a lot of happy memories to read in May’s issue an insight into Tom Wheatcroft’s achievement in obtaining a Grand Prix at Donington, the interview giving an accurate account of his single-minded determination to succeed against impossible odds.
I have known Tom for 30 years and during this time alone you can add this success to several hundred others not always connected with motor racing and always achieved in the same determined manner.
I first met ‘Wheaty’ in a train whilst on our way to the 1963 French GP at Reims — we were just two enthusiasts who travelled to as many European GPs as possible, not knowing anyone on the inside, usually buying our tickets beforehand and watching from the grandstand. I seem to remember it was difficult to obtain continental paddock tickets and as we took our racing very seriously this is where we wanted to be. We were not deterred and it was always a challenge to see who could get into the paddock first. We always succeeded by climbing fences or by confidently walking past ticket controllers, both of us detesting authority. I thought I had outdone him at Monza in 1964, where the fence was 30 feet high, by jumping into and entering in John Cooper’s car, but shortly after of course he duly appeared large as life.
It must be remembered that it was only at this time his motor racing achievements began to take shape — the collection of single-seaters started in 1964, and Donington from 1971.
Tom has more drive and has achieved more in his lifetime than countless men put together and yet he still has ambitions to fulfil. The guffaw has always been there and although we now live much further apart, there is fortunately one ‘Wheaty’ duck on our canal emitting an identical sound, so Tom is a permanent guest.