£50,000 appeal fund to remember history of tragic Welsh F1 ace
A £50,000 appeal fund has been set up to erect a statue in memory of the Formula 1 ace Tom Pryce in his hometown of Denbigh.
The official launch was timed to coincide with what would have been the local hero’s 70th birthday (Tuesday, June 11) and just weeks following the death at the age of 70 of his racing rival Nicki Lauda.
Poignantly, Lauda was taking part in the 1977 South African Grand Prix in which Tom was tragically killed aged only 27 and went on to win the race.
A website, a Facebook page and a Go Fund Me page have now gone live so supporters can make donations.
Organisers say they want to inspire future generations to follow their dreams as well as creating a permanent memorial and the strapline to the appeal is #whatsyourdream.
The talented sculptor Nick Elphick is on board and is keen to make an “interactive piece of public art” which people can use to take selfies.
There is already a Tom Pryce mural celebrating his achievements in nearby Ruthin and a stretch of track at the Anglesey Circuit is named the Tom Pryce Straight in his honour.
Tom, or Maldwyn as he was known to his friends, was raised in the small village of Nantglyn just outside Denbigh and he was a pupil of the former Frongoch School in the town.
After leaving school he became an apprentice tractor mechanic at North Wales Agricultural Engineers in St Asaph.
But he always had the ambition to be a racing driver and he moved swiftly up the ranks, winning the Formula One Race of Champions at Brands Hatch in 1975.
He went on to start the British Grand Prix at Silverstone that year in pole position and led the field for two laps.
As part of the Shadow team, he enhanced his burgeoning reputation as a supremely skilled driver by coming third in the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix and repeating the feat a year later in Brazil.
According to his friends and his fans, he was on his way to becoming a Formula One great, a Lewis Hamilton on his day, and they are convinced he would have become world champion had he lived.
Sadly, he perished in a freak accident, leaving behind his distraught widow Fenella, parents Jack and Gwyneth and a racing world in shock.
Among those supporting the appeal is the Mayor of Denbigh, Cllr Gaynor Wood-Tickle.
She said: “I think the appeal to create a special piece of public art to remember Tom is absolutely wonderful.
“No matter what young people want to do, they need things to inspire them and this can only be a good thing for the town of Denbigh.”
One of Tom’s friends, Dave Jones, from St Asaph, brought Tom’s beloved blue MGB GT car to the launch.
He recalled: “I first met Tom when he was a tractor mechanic and I was a spotty 14-year-old.
“At that time, I knew he was going to a racing drivers’ school which impressed me immensely but as a person he was a lovely chap, very quiet but very funny too.
“At the racing drivers’ school, they very quickly realised that he was something special. They’d seen James Hunt before, but Tom was something special.
“He was a hero of mine and I was passionate about motor racing because of Tom, and I followed his career closely. His death was a terrible tragedy and a great loss.
“He was flying in terms of his career as a Formula 1 driver and I’m sure he would have been world champion.
“I was deeply honoured when his parents gave me Tom’s MGB GT for safe keeping.”
Among the main drivers of the appeal is leading businessman, Mario Kreft MBE, from Denbigh, who stressed that they were not looking for any public money for the statue which would be funded by donations from supporters.
He said: “The idea was spurred by Tom Pryce exhibition at Denbigh Museum, which is housed in his old school, and which was the brain child of Ronwy Rogers, from Denbigh.
“Ronwy had made a promise to his father to keep Tom’s memory alive and thanks to a great deal of hard work by a lot of people the exhibition was a huge success and attracted interest from across the world.
“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.
“It’s a wonderful story and Tom has clearly not been forgotten but I think he’s probably not had the recognition he deserves.
“We hope that this fitting and exceptional piece of public art will inspire all of us but particularly our young people.”
Sculptor Nick Elphick, from Llandudno, has already been busy sketching and making maquettes.
He said: “Personally, I feel extremely proud to have been asked to be involved in this project.
“I really feel like I’ve got a connection to Tom Pryce already and it’s become something that I just want to do as a personal thing – just knowing about his history and talking to his friends and realising what an amazing person he was.
“When you look at the photos, Tom is almost like an actor playing the part – he’s got these film star good looks and his smile was so genuine, and that’s what I’m trying to capture.
“It’s important to me that we make Tom’s history real so that he can never be forgotten.”
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