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RIP Tom Wheatcroft


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#1 MegaManson

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:16

Sad news, did a lot for motor racing


http://www.bikesport...ROFT_HAS_DIED_1



By David Miller

It is with a heavy heart that bikesportnews.com has to report that legendary Donington Park owner Tom Wheatcroft has died.

The 87-year-old finally succumbed to cancer, passing away at his home this morning. Mr Wheatcroft has always lived within a 30-mile radius of the circuit and was famous for cycling from his parents' home in Leicester to Donington Park to watch pre-war motor racing instead of going to school.

Mr Wheatcroft drove tanks during World War II, returning to set up a successful building business. Sad that racing had left Donington Park, he set up his own motor racing team in the 1960s.

By the 1970s he was in a position to indulge his passion for the sport and he established a team to run a Brabham BT30 Formula 2 car for Derek Bell. He also bought a BT26 for a selection of F1 races although it was not very successful. The F2 program, however, was a big success and Bell finished second in the European Championship.

In 1971, Mr Wheatcroft bought part of the 1,100 acre Donington Hall estate, including the famous pre-war racing circuit, for £100,000. At his own cost, he rebuilt the circuit and moved his classic car collection to the estate, the largest collection of motor racing cars in the world known as the Donington Grand Prix Exhibition.

Mr Wheatcroft was a personal friend of bikesportnews.com director Sir Robin Miller, who said: "Tom was a great man with a great sense of humour and a sense of how things ought to be done properly. His contribution to motorsport in the UK cannot be quantified and he will be sorely missed.

"Having spent a lot of time with Tom, both socially and professionally, I am very saddened by his death. Racing, and Donington Park, will be a poorer place without his sense humour, great voice and expertise."

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#2 John Ginger

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:27

Very sad news, we have lost a true gentleman of the sport, of the like we will probably not see again

He was the sort of person you felt you knew

I would not only like to offer my condolences to his family and friends, but to record my appreciation of the many things he did for our sport, RIP Tom

#3 kayemod

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:27

That's so sad, he was a real character. I bought his autobiography at the museum a few years ago, and when I got home, was touched to see that it was signed by Tom.

#4 Giraffe

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:48

As a student in Nottingham in the early 70's, I visited Tom's collection at Donington shortly after it opened in March 1973 and the Great Man himself was there! "What do you reckon to it, lad?" he asked me; "Grand Tom!" I replied as we stood infront of a ruddy great fire engine that stood in the entrance at the time. IMHO, Tom was the greatest motor racing enthusiast who ever lived. and that's how I shall always remember him. Rest in Peace, Tom.

#5 rdmotorsport

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 11:55

As a student in Nottingham in the early 70's, I visited Tom's collection at Donington shortly after it opened in March 1973 and the Great Man himself was there! "What do you reckon to it, lad?" he asked me; "Grand Tom!" I replied as we stood infront of a ruddy great fire engine that stood in the entrance at the time. IMHO, Tom was the greatest motor racing enthusiast who ever lived. and that's how I shall always remember him. Rest in Peace, Tom.



A sad loss,TW was always helpful,kind and so enthusiastic and he could always get the better of Big Lou which in itself is no mean feat, again to say a sad loss.


#6 ianselva

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 12:00

Very sad news, we have lost a true gentleman of the sport, of the like we will probably not see again

He was the sort of person you felt you knew

I would not only like to offer my condolences to his family and friends, but to record my appreciation of the many things he did for our sport, RIP Tom

What a shame his last memory should be of the mess that Donington has become. A great loss to motor racing and motor sport history.


#7 Doug Nye

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 12:07

I first met Wheatie properly in 1970, and worked for him as a consultant on the establishment of the Donington Collection, really for the following ten years. This news is not unexpected, but a blow nonetheless. He was, quite simply, the wisest man I have ever known - though he could certainly make the occasional error of judgment. But moreso, he absolutely loved racing and racing machinery. He could be such good fun, to the extent that he could most decidedly be dangerous to know. To me he was always one of those characters who seemed totally indestructible. And now this morning's news that he has died.

We don't have to believe it.

Sincere condolences to Kevin, sisters, brother and Tom's longtime partner, wider family and friends.

"Go on lad - ooh yer boogah - gi'it some stick!" - unforgettable, and therefore immortal.

Dear Tom. Thank you for so much.

DCN

#8 Ray Bell

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 12:13

I've neither met him nor seen his great assets at Donington...

But I'm moved to think that now he'll be able to catch up with Jumbo again and have a drink with him as they discuss their past dealings and the loves they shared.

Edited by Ray Bell, 01 November 2009 - 12:14.


#9 Macca

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 12:24

Sad news - a very great man who did more for motorsport in the UK than almost anyone I can think of. :cry:

Say hi to Roger for us, Tom.

RIP


Paul M

#10 Richard Jenkins

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 13:20

IMHO, Tom was the greatest motor racing enthusiast who ever lived. Rest in Peace, Tom.


Yep, that pretty much sums it up for me. A real shame & he'll be much missed. :(


#11 fil2.8

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 13:34

Yep, that pretty much sums it up for me. A real shame & he'll be much missed. :(


I'll second that , got to know him in the late '70's , a generous , warm-hearted man , who did'nt suffer fools gladly .
We were lucky enough to be invited to his private bar , and really enjoyed his company . During one two day ' World of Sport ' meeting came to our rider and discreetly pressed £75 into his hand , which I guess was almost a weeks wages in those days . A good guy , Rip Tom

#12 piperp2

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 13:45

I have always loved Donington and the museum since my first visit there in 1979. In 2004 after visiting the Lotus festival I thought I would visit the museum again, as I pulled into the car park Tom pulled up in in his Audi A6, registration number V16 BRM. I hung around and when he got out the car with his wife I introduced myself and complemented him on the circuit and the collection. To my surprise he invited to have a coffee with him in the café/restaurant. I spent over two hours with Tom and his wife, he told me the most amazing stories about motor racing and how he acquired some of his collection, and the story about how he purchased the little V8 1963 ATS Tipo 100 F1 car I will never forget. A true gentleman, a passionate enthusiast and very sad news, I am glad I met him.

Posted Image

Edited by piperp2, 01 November 2009 - 15:12.


#13 wildman

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 13:51

Never had the pleasure of meeting the great man, but I can remember reading a feature in Road & Track around 1973, about the time the Donington Collection opened. It would be a quarter-century before I'd get the opportunity to visit, and it remains one of the most memorable and affecting experiences of my motorsports life. I sincerely hope arrangements have been made to keep the collection intact, as there can be no greater memorial to a life so well lived.

#14 sterling49

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 13:58

Another good guy gone, thanks for everything Tom, his support of Roger Williamson was so generous back in the early days. Pity there are not more like Tom. R.I.P.

#15 Pink Snail

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 14:36

What a shame that Mr Wheatcroft should pass away this week of all weeks. So sad, and yet as fans we can all be thankful that he saved Donington back in the 70`s and gave us what we have today. I will remember him as being very warm and enthusiastic and willing to listen and talk to almost anyone - a great man indeed.
Thankyou very much Tom for what you did for British Motorsport and trust that your collection stays where it deserves to be.
RIP TW and warmest condolences to your family & friends..KM :up: :cry:

#16 Andy35

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 15:12

Very sad to see such a passionate enthusiast pass away. we need more of his ilk, not less. I'm a bit gutted to be honest.

Regards
Andy

Edited by AndyW35, 01 November 2009 - 15:13.


#17 Coral

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 15:16

I'm very sad to hear this. :cry:

Thanks Tom for everything you did for motorsport. :up:

#18 David McKinney

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 16:05

Have just read this news

Not entirely unexpected, but a very sad day nevertheless

Where would British motorsport have been in the past 35 years or so without him?

What selfless generosity not only in reviving a great circuit, but in providing an associated facillity where enthusiasts could view some of the great GP cars of the past

I never knew him well, but well enough to know he was a great character. Irreplaceable

#19 Tim Murray

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 16:20

How sad that he died with his beloved Donington in such a mess. I encountered him only once, but it was memorable - he was definitely a larger than life character. RIP, Tom, and I hope that. wherever you've gone, they've laid on a proper Auto Union for you at last.

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#20 Allen Brown

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 16:30

This is really sad news.

He built a wonderful collection of cars and Donington which had a lot to do with my fascination for old racing cars. Also many of the first race meetings I attended were at the newly (re)opened Donington Park so I have a lot to blame him for!

Thanks Tom and R.I.P.

#21 D-Type

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 16:35

A true enthusiast. RIP

#22 Greatest

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 16:41

Another great motor racing character lost...! R.I.P., Tom! :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry:

#23 mfd

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 16:52

This is really sad news.

Someone I was proud to have known and occasionally spend time chatting with. His stories were priceless, unapproachable and in equal measures both happy or sad, tear jerkers.
A man who undoubtedly lived his life.


#24 cpbell

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 17:06

I heard about this after watching the race from Abu-Dhabi on the BBC. I never met the man, but I visited his collection twice and was a huge fan of it and greatly appreciative of what he did in terms of both the collection, and, of course, restoring Donington to its rightful place. As has been said, how sad that he should pass away at this turbulent time for his beloved circuit; I wonder if the stress and sadness of the situation maybe hastened his passing? I hope not, but let us hope that his family can ensure Donington's survival. I must confess I never was convinced by Mr Gillett.

#25 Macca

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 17:24

As I would like to remember him, seen at Goodwood in 2006 with DCN:

Posted Image

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#26 Sebastian Tombs

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 17:41

A very sad day indeed. We, as motor racing enthusiasts, will ensure that his contribution will never be forgotten for it is certain sure that we will never see his like again. It is also incumbent on us to make very clear to the money-grubbing little chancers, who are not fit to lick Tom's boots, that we demand that Donington be restored to at least National motor sport standards, 2, 3 and four wheel.
RIP, Tom, and thanks for everything.

#27 RTH

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 18:00

A true enthusiast, who achieved a great deal for UK motor racing.

Let us hope someone now will pick up the reins, repair and restore the damage at Donington Park, preserve and enhance both the circuit, surrounding park land and the precious resource that is the racing car museum in the grounds. Thank you Mr Wheatcroft.

#28 Alan Cox

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 18:36

Not entirely unexpected, but a very sad day nevertheless

Where would British motorsport have been in the past 35 years or so without him?

What selfless generosity not only in reviving a great circuit, but in providing an associated facillity where enthusiasts could view some of the great GP cars of the past

I never knew him well, but well enough to know he was a great character. Irreplaceable

Very well put, David. May I echo your sentiment?

#29 philhitchings

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 18:42

I'm really sad to learn of his passing, especially that he died knowing that the efforts to put the F1GP at Donnington had failed. Condolences to his family and friends.

#30 Gregor Marshall

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 20:02

Very sad to hear, even when knowing he hadn't been well for a long time but he was a tough old bugger!!
He has left a huge legacy on UK Motorsport and I was extremely honoured that him and his son Kevin would consider Old Nail and Dad's trophies to add to the collection - wow, all those great F1 cars driven by the best drivers in the world, plus my Dad's old Saloon cars and pots!!
Typical of Tom in my view though, lovely, down to earth chap and supreme enthusiast - my thoughs are with Kevin and the rest of the family.
:cry:

#31 TFBundy

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 20:14

I too was sorry to hear of Tom Wheatcroft’s passing yesterday. I can tell another little story of his enthusiasm and generousity.

The very first time I sat in a racing car was thanks to ‘Uncle Tom’ and it wasn’t a bad car to sit in either!

My family has always enjoyed interesting old cars so one day in the late 1960s, I went with my father to view a blue Mercedes 380 roadster that had originally been Bira’s. We went to Leicestershire and found the car in a long glass fronted garage that had been specially built at the bottom of the seller’s garden. It was lined up at the end of a row of old Formula One cars.

While my father looked at the Benz, I was allowed to sit in the Rob Walker Lotus 18 and a Maserati 250F and a Ferrari 500. I was most excited by the Lotus that was rear-engined and ‘modern’ and I do remember I got a big oil-stain on the seat of my school trousers! Tom showed us a piston and rod that had escaped from the engine of the Ferrari and I remember he said that he had been driving it in a hour track session and, of course, the engine had let go after 59½ minutes!

I vividly remember how kind and enthusiastic he was. When my Dad asked where we could find some food locally, he invited us to lunch! Sadly we didn’t take him up on the offer but I remember that as a huge contrast because the vintage car world was [still is] very variable! The previous car we’d been to see was supposed to be a Delage but under the tarpaulin in the front garden was a terminally worthless pile of rust and a wasp’s nest and the charmless vendor hadn’t even allowed my father to wash his hands!

Many years later, the second time I met Tom Wheatcroft, he was sitting on his own at the small bar in his Redgate Lodge at the end of a race meeting at his Donington Park circuit with his pint of bitter! The same uncomplicated enthusiast but with his own very big toy set!

Like other posters I'd like to say thanks Tom, too!


#32 Cris

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 20:21

My father had the pleasure of staying with Tom for a few days a couple of years ago. He was toured around the collection, stores and the military collection by Tom and Kevin, and it ranks as one of the high points of his life with cars. He gave my dad an open invitation for me to come over whenever I got the chance for the same type of visit, one that I'll sadly not be able to take him up on now.

Godspeed, Tom.

Cris

#33 MattKellett

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 20:40

RIP Tom

A man who achieved so much, fulfilled his dreams and shared it with us all.



Matt

#34 wolf sun

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 20:44

Oh my, as others have said, not unexpected - but still hard to swallow. RIP Tom, and sincere condolences to family and loved ones. :cry:

#35 RobertE

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 22:23

Some years ago there was that rather surreal get together at Basildon on behalf of Canon Lionel Webber's appeal for something-or-other and he turned up with a BRM V16.

I was, as I recall,standing quite nearby when they finally got it going. Doug Nye was there, who had, of course, heard it before, whereas I had not.

Blimey...

God bless him.

#36 Paul Hurdsfield

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 22:45

Well I've had a really busy day, I got in late and watched the recorded GP, at the end they anounced Toms passing :cry:
How can you be devastated about someone you never met or never knew?
Toms dream was Donington he re-built the circuit to a fantastic venue, fullfilled his dream and got the GP in 93'
And now in his last few weeks of life he had to witness the devastation of his dream by a bunch of chancers, poor Tom.
I hope Donington gets re-built back to the venue Tom wanted it to be as a lasting memory him,RIP Tom.


#37 JacnGille

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 23:22

aaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwwwwww :cry:

#38 BullHead

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 23:28

So sad. Donnington must live on. Hope Bernie has some sympathy. Hope ol Tom didn't see his track go to waste

#39 NanningF1fan

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 01:16

As a kid I watched motor racing at Croft. Then lack of access to circuits reduced me to an occasional TV viewer during my student days. But the presence of Donington on my doorstep when I moved to Loughborough in 1980 turned me into an avid live racing fan. I marshalled at Donington for the next 23 years and spent some of the happiest days of my life there. The Grand Prix of Europe in 93 on the Melbourne Hairpin was probably the best weekend's marshalling I ever did despite the weather. In many ways Donington is my spiritual home and Tom Wheatcroft will forever be part of it. I never met him personally but I have so much to thank him for.

I hope the spectators and marshals as well as the competitors and the MSA can now rally round and ensure that Tom's legacy, the Grand Prix collection as well as the circuit, is kept together and enhanced for the future.

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#40 RStock

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 01:51

Sad news to hear . I hope his Donington collection stays intact to serve as his legacy .

#41 fuzzi

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 06:50

Like many I was very sad to hear of Tom Wheatcroft's passing and my sympathy goes to his family.

When we were going to bed last night my wife and I were struck by a memory from the first Goodwood Festival of Speed. We took our sons who were still quite young and the youngest, Tom took the programme to get some autographs from the great and good who were wandering about. I spotted Tom W sitting in a Land Rover Discovery and pointed him out to our Tom who went over and asked him to sign the programme. "Cost you a fiver!" said Tom W. Our son turned and looked back at us with a look of "What do I do now?" on his face, then looked back as he heard Tom W laughing and reaching for the programme which he signed with "There you are lad."

I can still remember his laughter.

A great man.

#42 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 08:44

Retromobile 2009

Posted Image
Posted Image

Motor racing fans owe a great debt to a man preserving such a collection of fine racing machinery and sharing it with them.

Edited by Arjan de Roos, 02 November 2009 - 08:45.


#43 Maldwyn

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 12:57

I never met Mr Wheatcroft nor have I yet visited the Donington Collection but that someone should, through their own passion for motorsport, create something that can be appreciated by all of us is something I would have liked to thank them for.

Tom Wheatcroft made an enormous contribution to motorsport in may ways and he will not be forgotten.

My condolences to his family and friends.

RIP


#44 ddmichael

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 13:34

I'd just like to echo the sentiments of the other posters here - RIP Tom, thank you for your wonderful museum and for being one of the few who gave more than they took from motorsport.

Be nice to think he was up there having a chat with Roger.

DM

#45 mfd

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 13:46

...nor have I yet visited the Donington Collection

Oh Michael, how can this be?


#46 Maldwyn

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 14:19

Oh Michael, how can this be?

Inexcusable I know. I've been to Donington a number of times but never got to see the Collection. A visit is well overdue.

#47 RogerFrench

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 16:23

A pity - there aren't too many like that. RIP

#48 kayemod

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 17:46

A pity - there aren't too many like that. RIP


I mentioned it in an earlier post, but is there anyone here who needs to be told about Tom's autobiography Thunder in the Park ? This really is a most enjoyable book, I'd be surprised if Tom didn't have help of some kind in writing it, but it all reads as if he's telling the story himself in his own words and in his own inimitable style. Too many high spots to mention, but my favourite section was the bit where Tom describes the saga of his Bugatti Royale replica, obtaining original drawings, getting the beast made, and most of all driving it some distance to Donington from the constructor's premises himself, in the dark on a wet night, to the consternation of everyone concerned, except of course for Tom. In almost every respect, one of a kind.


#49 eldougo

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Posted 02 November 2009 - 22:05

Sad to hear of his passing,his passion for all things was expressed wonderfully in that GREAT accent.....RIP MrWheatcroft.

#50 Alan Cox

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Posted 26 November 2009 - 20:56

I would recommend to you all DCN's marvellous appreciation of Tom in the latest issue of Motor Sport. Thank you, Doug, much appreciated.