A new book has shone a light on the brilliant talent of tragic F1 hero Tom Pryce – who went from being a tractor mechanic to a potential world champion in just four years.
Authors Darren Banks and Kevin Guthrie have pledged to donate the proceeds from sales of the book to create a permanent memorial in Tom’s home town of Denbigh.
They have already raised £2,500 towards the appeal.
Some of the best known names in motorsport have contributed their recollections to the book, Tom Pryce – Memories of a Welsh Star by Those Who Knew Him.
Among them are former FI racing driver and TV commentator John Watson, a contemporary of Tom’s, and Ruthin-born David Richards, the chair of Motorsport UK and a former chair of Aston Martin.
The foreword to the book has been written by Tom’s widow, Nella, who thanked the authors for producing such a moving account of his life to raise funds for the memorial.
She said: “I think he’s become a sort of James Dean of motor racing; he was handsome, incredibly talented and destined for great success; a special being cut down in his prime.
“To me, he will always be that fun, caring, handsome young man with a terrific sense of humour and that great smile; the man I fell in love with and married, who also just happened to become a world-famous Grand Prix driver.
“My hope is that this book will keep his memory alive, and in doing so, continue to inspire and encourage others to reach for, and achieve, their own personal goals.”
In describing him as a potential world champion in the making, John Watson, who raced against Tom in the 1970s, said: “Tom was a very fine driver , who unquestionably had the raw talent and skill to take him down the road to success.
“Where Tom might have differed from some other hard-nosed competitors was that he was a gentle man. He wasn’t aggressive and self-promoting.
“He promoted himself on the race track and that was his calling card.”
Tom Pryce was born at the former Trevalyn Hospital in Rossett and spent his early childhood living in the Hightown area of Wrexham and the nearby village of Brymbo.
He was tipped for the very top after swapping his first job as a tractor mechanic for a career in motorsport and a place in the Shadow Grand Prix team.
Tom won the Formula One Race of Champions at Brands Hatch in 1975 against a strong field which included world champions Emerson Fittipaldi and Jody Scheckter.
He then took pole position in the British Grand Prix that year and led the field for two laps as well as posting third place finishes in the 1975 Austrian and 1976 Brazilian grand prix.
But Tom, known to his friends by his second name of Maldwyn, was tragically killed in a freak accident South African Grand Prix at the Kyalami circuit,
He was just 27 years of age when he died 44 years ago on March 5, 1977.
The campaign was launched in Denbigh where he went to school at Ysgol Frongoch after his parents, a local police officer and a district nurse, settled in the village of Nantglyn.
The book also includes a heartfelt contribution from lifelong friend Trefor Williams, originally from Nantglyn and now living in Rhos, near Wrexham.
According to Trefor, a retired journalist, who was Tom and Nella’s best man at their wedding in 1975, said it was a joy to read the book as it rekindled old memories.
He said: “I’ve been reading it a little at a time, dipping into it a few pages in one session to better savour each of the anecdotes. I can picture Mald in my head as I read it.
“He was such a down to earth character. Even as he became increasingly successful on the racing circuit, he never forgot his roots, always kept in touch.
“It really shines a light on what a modest, fun-loving character he was, a devoted friend, always eager to catch-up. We were great pals. There was a bunch of us, all racing fans, who had such good times together.”
Trefor was pleased to be asked to contribute his own anecdotes to the 168-pages hardback volume compiled by Darren and Kevin, who both live in Fife in Scotland, and are kindly donating all the proceeds, barring minimal design and printing costs.
He added: “One of the memories I include in the book is when Tom kneeled down in prayer to tie his shoelaces during the church service at his wedding and the price sticker for the shoes was still on the soles.
“He was a no frills, no airs and graces sort of character and all the stories from people who contributed to the book reflect this.
“Among my favourite memories are as a bunch of friends going to race tracks like Brands Hatch or Oulton Park. We went to Oulton Park once with Tom driving and three of us hiding in the boot so we wouldn’t have to pay to get in.”
Dave Jones, a member of the fundraising committee, met Tom in the late 1960s and became an avid follower of his racing career. He now owns one of Tom’s first cars, his beloved MGB GT.
Tom’s parents handed it over to Dave as they knew he would treasure it and keep it in good condition.
Dave, who lives in St Asaph, said: “We are hugely grateful to the authors for donating proceeds from their book to this great cause. They have worked so hard on it and have produced a fascinating read, as intriguing to non-racing fans as it is to the motor sports fraternity.
“It is remarkable that in just a few weeks it has already raised £2,500. We hope it will continue to help provide a significant boost to our fundraising appeal. I encourage as many people as possible to buy a copy. They won’t regret it.
“Not only did Tom achieve his goal but it only took him just under four years from being a tractor mechanic to becoming one of the top Formula 1 drivers of the world.
“Tom set an example for others to follow, and showed that no matter what or where their starting point in life people can still have dreams and work to achieve them.”
It was a sentiment endorsed by Mario Kreft MBE, a fellow member of the appeal fund committee.
He said: “The whole of our team is inspired to make sure the Tom Pryce story didn’t end in 1977 and we are hugely grateful to Darren and Kevin for their generosity in donating the proceeds of their wonderful book.
It is a fitting tribute to undoubtedly the greatest Welsh racing driver of all time and who, if fate had been kinder, would now be remembered as quite possibly one of the all-time greats of motor racing.
“His story resonates to this day and can help inspire future generations of local youngsters to reach for the stars.”