Obituary: Tom Walkinshaw, Rugby club owner and former F1 team owner

Tom Walkinshaw, Rugby club owner and former F1 team owner. Born: 17 November, 1946, near Temple, Midlothian. Died: 12 December, 2010, in Oxfordshire, aged 64.

A farmer's son from Midlothian, Tom Walkinshaw became an aggressive racing car driver, head of three Formula One teams, constructor of extreme sports cars and a tough and often-controversial businessman who bought and developed Gloucester rugby club. News of his death sent shock waves throughout the professional rugby community, which credited him with advancing the sport's rise in popularity in England in recent years.

But he was perhaps best-known for bringing a young Michael Schumacher to the fledgling Benetton F1 team in 1991 and helping the German win his and the team's first world championship three years later. He was also seen as a driving force behind Jaguar's return to motor racing in the 1980s.

In addition, Walkinshaw had spells, mostly frustrating, running both the Ligier and Arrows F1 teams, bringing reigning world champion Damon Hill to the latter in 1997, despite the efforts of Ferrari and McLaren to snap up the Englishman.

Previously, Walkinshaw had raced single-seaters in F2, F3 and F5000 races - his breakthrough was winning the Scottish Formula Ford title in 1969 - but he became most successful as a driver of touring and sports cars.

With co-driver Pierre Dieudonn, he won the Spa 24 Hours race in 1981 in a Mazda RX-7, and in 1984 in a Jaguar XJ-S, in both cases entered by his own team, Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) with Jaguar backing. The famous dark-green Jaguar with a white flash helped him capture the European Touring Car Championship driver's title in 1984.

Having retired from competitive driving in the mid-1980s and turned to team management, he led his TWR team to victory at the Le Mans 24 hours twice - first in 1988, with Johnny Dumfries one of the three drivers, trouncing a string of mighty Porsches.

Jaguar had not long returned to motor racing and the image of the XJR-9, this time in the famous purple and white livery of sponsor Silk Cut, was a major breakthrough for the marque. When Jaguar unveiled its new XJ220 road car at the London Motor Show later that year, its construction and sales owed more than a little to Walkinshaw and TWR. The 278 XJ220s produced by TWR and Jaguar - claiming 0-60mph in 3.8 seconds - are now collector's items.

The Oxfordshire-based racing team won Le Mans again in 1990, with Martin Brundle one of the three drivers of an XJR-12.

When Benetton asked Walkinshaw to run their new F1 team in 1991, he brought with him car designer Ross Brawn, who would go on to Ferrari, later to his own team and currently Mercedes.Having raced against Schumacher in sportscar races - Walkinshaw said he was the only one who could challenge his Jaguars and the team devised a strategy to deal with him - Walkinshaw talked the German into leaving the Jordan F1 team for Benetton, where he brought them their first world championship - and the first of his seven - in 1974.

It was after Walkinshaw's last F1 team, Arrows, started to crumble in the late 1990s that he focused on racing and car engineering in Australia, notably with his Holden Racing Team in the V8 Supercar Series, which they have since won six times.

He set up a new company, Walkinshaw Performance. But he also turned to his other great love, rugby. In 1997, he bought a 73 per cent stake in Gloucester Rugby Football Club, increasing it to 98 per cent two years later. He became a much-loved figure among fans of the Cherry-and-Whites at Kingsholm stadium.

He was chairman of Premier Rugby Ltd (PRL), the umbrella body for the 12 English premiership clubs, from 1998-2002 and had many a battle with the less-than-dynamic Rugby Football Union over how to professionalise and popularise the sport.

Under his chairmanship, attendances at premiership matches soared 33 per cent, he helped push through the salary cap and he led the negotiations with the RFU that led to an eight-year agreement over the release of players for England matches.

Under Walkinshaw, Gloucester never quite won the premiership although they came within a whisker several times. They did win the 2005 European Challenge Cup, beating London Irish in extra time after a thrilling final at the Twickenham Stoop.

Thomas Walkinshaw was born on windswept Mauldslie farm in the parish of Temple, where his father was a sheepfarmer and market gardener in the shadow of the Moorfoot hills. Relatively isolated on the farm, his greatest thrill after he left school was to follow the exploits of a local garage owner who raced one of the early dark-green-with-stripes Mini Coopers.

Tom had his first go at racing in a basic MG Midget, but saved to buy a new Formula Ford car and began serious racing every weekend in small Scottish events in 1968. He was inspired by another Scottish farmer's son, former F1 world champion Jim Clark, who was killed in a crash that same year. A year later, Walkinshaw became Scottish Formula Ford champion, driving a Hawke, and headed south to race in Formula 3 in 1970.

He had spells with both the Lotus and March works teams but lacked sponsorship and was set back by breaking both legs in a major track crash.

Recognising his talent, Ford hired him in 1974 to develop and race touring cars and he won his class in the British Touring Car Championship that year. In 1976, he kicked out on his own by setting up Tom Walkinshaw Racing.

Walkinshaw served for a time as often-controversial chairman of the British Racing Drivers' Club.Friends recalled that, after breaking both ankles while skiing in Colorado, he paid $250 extra to have his plasters in the colours of the Scottish flag.

Walkinshaw, who had been suffering from lung cancer for several years, was last seen in public at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July. He is survived by his wife Martine and sons Ryan, Sean and Fergus.