Tom Pryce

Emotional minute’s applause for F1 hero Tom

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Senior figures from the world of motor racing have thrown their weight behind an appeal to honour Formula 1 hero Tom Pryce to inspire future generations to chase their dreams just like he did.

Former contemporaries of Tom joined were at the Tŷ Croes Circuit, on Anglesey, where a meeting led by the Historic Sports Car Club celebrated his life and staged an emotional minute’s applause.

They gave a 100 per cent positive response to news of a £50,000 fundraising appeal set up to construct a statue in Tom’s memory in his home town of Denbigh, with aim of inspiring children to reach for the stars. 

Tom, known as ‘Maldwyn’ to family and friends, died aged just 27 in a freak accident at the 1977 South African Formula One Grand Prix at Kyalami.

Had he lived he would have marked his milestone 70th birthday last month.

One driver for whom Tom was an idol is Karl Jones, a star of British saloon car racing in the 1980s, who still works as an ace instructor with McClaren and Jaguar.

He made a special effort to attend the Anglesey event where a key competition was named after Tom. The weekend programme took in 20 races over two days and was capped by two XL Aurora races for the Tom Pryce Trophy.

A postman before taking the leap into motor racing, Karl Jones’s own career was inspired by the Tom, the only Welsh driver to compete in Formula 1..

Tom started out as an apprentice tractor mechanic before moving up several gears into Formula 1 and becoming a formidable rival to household names of the seventies, James Hunt and Nikki Lauda.

He triumphed at the Formula One Race of Champions at Brands Hatch in 1975, and went on to start the British Grand Prix at Silverstone that year in pole position, leading the field for two laps.

As part of the Shadow team, he came third in the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix, repeating the feat a year later in Brazil.

Karl said: “I saw what he had achieved and it gave me the impetus to have a go myself. Motor racing had always been my dream and the fact that Tom was up there with the big names made it seem entirely possible for me, a young lad from Lampeter. 

“As a young fan I remember being completely in awe of Tom. He was a natural on the track, incredible, particularly in the wet when driver skills come to the fore, then he was unbeatable. He had the potential to have become  legendary had his life not been cut so tragically short.”

Karl started out at the same Motor Racing Stables where Tom worked.

He said: “I even lived in the same digs as he had lived in for a while.

“I was devastated on hearing of his death. We were all shell-shocked, such a loss to British sport as a whole.”

Married to Tina with two sons, Scott and Ryan, Karl is based in Maidstone not far from Brands Hatch circuit and about four times a year he makes sure to attend the cemetery at St Bartholomew Churchyard, Otford, where Tom is buried, to lay flowers on his grave. 

In 2017 to mark the 40th anniversary since Tom’s death Karl completed a whole racing season using a helmet in Tom’s distinctive colours - white with five black vertical lines at the front.

“Back in the day Tom used sticky tape to put the lines on his helmet so his dad could more easily pick him out when watching him race,” said Karl.

At Anglesey Karl was honoured to be asked to get behind the wheel of  one Tom’s first cars, his beloved MGB GT and take it for a commemorative lap of the Ty Croes circuit.

The car is now owned by a friend of Tom and his family, Dave Jones, one of the leaders of the fundraising appeal, who was thrilled with the turnout at the Historic Sports Car Club tribute meeting.

A stretch of track at the Anglesey Circuit is named the Tom Pryce Straight in his honour, and on Sunday the Club and track management arranged for an unprecedented tribute inviting the public and drivers onto the grid to deliver a minute’s round of applause in memory of Tom.

It followed Karl’s honorary lap in the blue MGB GT and that of another prestigious gleaming red Royale Formula 3 works prototype car RP 11-1 which was driven by Tom in the  1971-72 season. The Royale is today owned and restored by German driver Martin Feldmann, aged 70. He crossed paths with Tom many times on the racing circuit early in their respective careers and described him as a complete professional.

Martin travelled 750 miles from South Germany especially to bring the Royale to the Anglesey meeting.

He was overawed when he discovered the car among the collection of a German sports racing fan some years ago.

He said: “It was battered but I knew I could bring it back to racing condition. I’m so pleased to be able to race it here at Anglesey in Tom’s home of North Wales. It’s a beautiful part of the world, the track is among the best I’ve visited, such a wonderful location and great facilities.”

Martin spent three years restoring the Royale to achieve the vital Historic Technical Pass certification which enables it to race.

Both he and Karl said taking the two classic cars on honorary laps was highly emotional and invoked moving memories of Tom.

They both are firmly behind the fundraising appeal to design and dedicate a statue in Tom’s name in Denbigh.

In addition to the permanent statue the charity campaign - straplined #whatsyourdream - also aims to encourage new generations of young people to follow their hearts and achieve their dreams.

Karl said: “It’s a fantastic idea and a fitting, long overdue tribute. We need more young people from all backgrounds coming into motor racing. This is a great way to fire up their ambitions.”

Another driver, Mike Walker, 73, recalled competing in the same era as Tom.

He said: “The statue is entirely deserving. Tom was slightly younger than me but I remember him coming into prominence. He was the underdog who came seemingly from nowhere to take first place in the Formula Three support race for the 1972 Formula One Race of Champions. 

The appeal fund organisers are eager to get as many no- racing fans behind the fund as well as followers of the sport.

Dave Jones said: “It’s important to remember that the statue is in honour of Tom as a young man who had a dream and went for it. He set an example for others to follow, to know that no matter what or where their starting point in life people can still have dreams and work to achieve them. 

The statue is to be designed and created by sculptor Nick Elphick, from Llandudno, who has already been busy sketching and making maquettes.

Among the main drivers of the appeal is leading businessman, Mario Kreft MBE, from Denbigh, who said:  “The strap line of the campaign, #whatsyourdream, is perfect because Tom went from being an apprentice tractor mechanic to Formula 1 racing in a very short space of time.

“We  hope that this fitting and exceptional piece of public art will inspire all of us but particularly our young people.”

 For more information about the fundraising appeal and associated events go to www.tompryce.co.uk or www.Facebook.com/TomPryceF1 and to make a contribution to the appeal fund go to https://www.gofundme.com/tom-pryce-appeal