John Coombs, Win Percy and Sir Stirling Moss
28 September 1943 |
|Best championship position||1st
(1980, 1981, 1982)
Winston "Win" Percy (born 28 September 1943, near Tolpuddle, Dorset) is a former motor racing driver from England. He competed in many classes of motorsport during his long career, but is perhaps most famous as one of the greats of touring car racing. Joe Saward of Autosport magazine once described him as being "often regarded as the World's Number One Touring Car Driver". Percy was British Touring Car Champion three times, and remains the most successful non-Antipodean driver ever to compete in Australia's premier national motorsport event: the Bathurst 1000km.
The early years
Percy found his way into motor sport through his first employment as a motor mechanic at his local garage. His first race was in 1964, in a local time-trial event driving his own road-going Ford Anglia 1200. He won, beating drivers of far more powerful cars in the process. While initially he pursued competitive driving as a hobby, his innate talent quickly resulted in many high-placed finishes in national-level races, including taking all three victories in the 1973 televised rallycross races at Cadwell Park. On the back of these results he turned professional in 1974, driving a Datsun 240Z in the British Modified Sports Car Championship. Once again, he won.
Enter the BTCC
The following year saw Win Percy enter the British Touring Car Championship for the first time, a race series that he would come to dominate in the years ahead. His first race in the BTCC would also be the first time he encountered Tom Walkinshaw, after Percy had not only won his class in the Toyota he was driving, but also put up a spirited attack on Walkinshaw's Ford Escort in the class above. In 1983, Percy won the Willhire 24 Hour in a Porsche 928S.
He stuck with Toyota for the next four years, but the Walkinshaw-Percy partnership finally came together in the same team when Walkinshaw offered Percy a drive in his Tom Walkinshaw Racing-run Mazda RX-7 for the 1980 season. True to form, Percy won the 1980 Championship for TWR, and then went on to repeat the feat in the following year. Owing to a misunderstanding of Walkinshaw's off-beat sense of humour, Percy agreed to move back to Toyota for 1982. This did little to stop his march to championship glory however, as he once again won the BTCC crown for the 1982 season in the Toyota Corolla.
The World Stage
Despite remaining with Toyota during the 1983 BTCC season, Percy maintained his links to TWR with occasional drives in their Jaguar XJS coupé, and Walkinshaw managed to tempt him back full-time in 1984. However, rather than a return to the BTCC, TWR entered the big Jaguars for Walkishaw and Percy in the European Touring Car Championship. Naturally the team won, Walkinshaw also taking the drivers' title. The following year saw the team switch to works-backed Rover Vitesse cars, again competing for the ETCC title. Walkinshaw and Percy this time took joint third in the drivers' championship. Along the way they scored victories in seven of the 500 km rounds: Donington; Silverstone; Monza; Vallelunga; Nogaro; the Österreichring; and Salzburg. 1985 also saw the Walkinshaw-Percy partnership in Australia for the first time, in the old XJS, for the Bathurst 1000 where they finished third after Walkinshaw had won pole position and the pair led for over half the race before a split oil line saw them finish 3 laps behind winning team mates John Goss and Armin Hahne in the team's third car.
Once again, the TWR Vitesse cars were entered for the ETCC in 1986. However, 1986 also saw TWR running Jaguar's works C1 entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans race; Percy was a natural choice for one of the driving slots. Percy's Jaguar XJR-6 lasted for 10 of the 24 hours, partnered by Gianfranco Brancatelli and Hurley Haywood at the wheel, before a drive-shaft failure dropped the car out of the race from second place. Percy entered Le Mans again the following year, but suffered a horrific crash when a tyre exploded at full speed (approximately 240 mph) on the long Mulsanne Straight, tearing off the rear bodywork and flipping the car into the air "up above the trees". The wreckage finally came to a halt 600 m down the road but, despite almost obliterating the vehicle, Percy walked away from the crash with nothing more than a badly battered helmet.
He continued to race in national and international competitions with a variety of teams until the end of the decade.
Win Percy - Team Manager
In 1990, at the behest of Tom Walkinshaw, Percy took charge of the General Motors works Holden entry for the Australian Touring Car Championship, the Holden Racing Team. Racing on the largely (to him) unfamiliar Australian race tracks, Percy as both team manager and lead driver put in a strong showing against the Ford Sierra RS500 turbo's and the Nissan Skyline turbo's to be the highest placed Commodore driver, finishing 8th in the series. This was despite being forced to miss Round 6 of the series at the Mallala circuit in South Australia when he and his wife were back home in England following the tragic death of their son in a car accident. In his place, team driver and commentator with the ATCC series television broadcaster Channel 7 stepped in and finished in 6th place. Percy won new fans in Australia for his drives in the HRT Commodore in the ATCC with his best finish being 3rd in Round 5 at the Lakeside Raceway in Brisbane.
Not only did he prepare the cars and manage the Holden Racing Team, but as a driver he won the coveted Bathurst 1000 race in 1990 and finished second in 1991, both times with Allan Grice as his co-driver. After a relatively quiet year in which he did little racing, Percy returned to Australia in 1992 to drive the new 1993 spec Holden VP Commodore alongside Grice at both the Sandown 500 and the Tooheys 1000 at Bathurst. After failing to finish in the debut of the new Commodore at Sandown, Grice qualified the Commodore 7th at Bathurst. There he and Percy would have an almost trouble free race to finish 5th outright and first in Class C for the new 1993 spec cars.
After 1991 he led a peripatetic lifestyle, with drives in many series around the world. Despite acting as team manager in the Mazda entry for the 1994 BTCC, and chief tester and latterly team manager for Harrier between 1995 and 1997, he managed to squeeze in the Jaguar XJ220's first race win.
In the late 1990s he became a familiar figure on the historic motorsport stage, often seen getting his Jaguar D-type XKD 505 very sideways in fiercely contested historic sports car races. More often than not Percy would emerge victorious. In 2002, driving XKD 505, he won all four races at the Le Mans Classic meeting. Sadly, this spectacle was not to last long.
In the summer of 2003 Win Percy suffered a serious accident in his garden. He was taken to hospital, where a medical error led to him being paralysed from the waist down. Win Percy sued the West Dorset General Hospital NHS Trust and received an out of court settlement: £1,550,000 (estimated General Damages £90,000) in April 2008. No longer able to compete, he is still a regular visitor to motor racing events around Britain.
- Janet Sayers and Mary Menjou (17 April 2008). "Win Percy v. West Dorset General Hospitals NHS Trust". Lexology - Kennedys Law LLP.
- Win Percy's Get Well Soon page
- BRDC Brief bio
- Interview with Win Percy at Gear Wheels online.
- ETCC results and photos.
|British Touring Car Champion
|Winner of the Bathurst 1000
(with Allan Grice)