Tom Pryce

Full Name:
Thomas Maldwyn Pryce
Born:
11th June 1949
Ruthin, Denbighshire, Wales
Died:
5th March 1977 (Aged 27)
Kyalami, Gauteng (ZA), South African GP
Nationality:
British
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

Great Britain was blessed with a formidable trio of talents in the early 1970s in Roger Williamson, Tony Brise and Tom Pryce. The only question seemed to be who would be more successful but within four years the "Lost Generation" were all gone.

Background and career in the junior formulae

The 21 year old son of a Welsh policeman, Tom Pryce won a Lola Formula Ford in a competition organised by the Daily Express and started racing. His progress through the ranks was interrupted at Monaco in 1972 after he retired from the Formula 3 race. He was standing by his car when another car hit him, launching Pryce through a shop window and breaking his leg.

Unassuming and modest, Pryce was driving for Royale in Formula Atlantic in 1973 when invited by Ron Dennis to make his Formula 2 debut with a Rondel Racing Motul M1-Ford. He finished 10th-equal in the championship with the late Williamson who had been killed at Zandvoort during the Dutch Grand Prix. Pryce’s best F2 result was second at the Norisring when following team-mate Tim Schenken home in a Rondel 1-2.

Formula 1 debut and Monaco F3 victory

He joined the new Token team for the 1974 International Trophy at Silverstone (a non-championship Formula 1 race) and made his GP debut in the Belgian GP. However, the team’s entry for the Monaco GP was refused so Pryce raced in the supporting F3 event instead. He scored a dominant victory with an Ippocampos March 743-Ford – winning by 20.8 seconds.

Grand Prix star for Shadow

That display led to an offer from the promising UOP Shadow F1 team and he did not disappoint. Pryce qualified third in France in his second race with the team and finished sixth at the German GP to score his first world championship point. He also raced in F2 with Chevron that year – qualifying on pole position at the Salzburgring, and coming third at Mugello.

The 1975 season confirmed that Britain (and more particularly Wales) had a new star. Pryce beat a high quality field at Brands Hatch in the Race of Champions and then started from the front row at Monaco. He qualified on pole position for the British GP and was leading when he crashed as the rain began to fall. A first podium finish when third in Austria helped Pryce to finish 10th in the world championship. With the season at an end came the news that Brise was among those killed in the light plane that also claimed the life of Graham Hill.

Despite UOP having withdrawn its sponsorship of Shadow, Pryce started 1976 by finishing third again in Brazil although the team soon lost its way and it began 1977 in the midfield. That must have frustrated a driver who was now in need of a breakthrough victory but worse was to come in South Africa.

Pryce’s team-mate Renzo Zorzi retired from the race on Kyalami’s main straight with a minor engine fire. Two marshals ran across the track just as the unsighted Hans-Joachim Stuck and Tom Pryce crested the brow immediately before the incident at full speed. Pryce hit the second marshal, an inexperienced 19 year old who was killed instantly. The fire extinguisher he was carrying hit Pryce’s helmet and killed the Welshman in a most horrific accident.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
1977 F1 World Championship
Shadow Racing Team
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1976 F1 World Championship
Shadow Racing Team
16 0 1 0
0% win rate
11th 10
1976 European F2 Championship
Fred Opert Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1975 F1 World Championship
UOP Shadow Racing Team
14 1 1 0
0% win rate
10th 8
1975 World Championship of Makes 1 0 0 0 0
1975 SCCA/USAC F5000 Championship
Shadow Racing Team
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
0
1974 F1 World Championship
UOP Shadow Racing Team
Token Racing
9 0 0 0
0% win rate
18th 1
1974 European F2 Championship
Baty Team Chevron
Team Harper
6 1 1 0
0% win rate
9th 9
1973 European F2 Championship
Motul-Rondel Racing
7 0 1 0
0% win rate
10th 11