DOB: August 27th 1954
Place of birth: Alresford, Hampshire
Elected to BRDC: 1981
Elected President: 2011
Derek Warwick was elected President of the British Racing Drivers’ Club in 2011, succeeding the 1996 World Champion, Damon Hill OBE. During his career Derek contested 147 Grand Prix races and won the World Sportscar Championship and Le Mans 24 Hour Race in 1992 with Peugeot.
Derek started racing in short oval events, notably with the Spedeworth organisation at tracks such as his local venue of Aldershot. Derek proved to be a very successful driver, winning the English Championship in 1971 before claiming his maiden World Championship title at the Wimbledon Stadium in 1973.
Moving from the short circuits, Derek graduated to Formula Ford 1600 in 1975 and 76 seasons, where he funded his own career winning the European Championship, taking second place in the RAC, DJM and the Festival with his Hawke in 1976, moving to F3 the following year. In 1978 Derek became involved in a superb three-way battle with Brazilian’s Nelson Piquet and Chico Serra, winning the Vandervell series and finishing runner-up in the BP championship to Piquet.
Progression to F2 followed the following year with the Theodore team although the partnership enjoyed little success. Things took an upward turn in 1980, when Derek joined the Toleman team. Victories at Silverstone and Monza proved Derek’s worth finishing second to his more experienced team-mate; Brian Henton who took the European Championship title.
Toleman stepped into Grand Prix racing in 1981, taking Derek with them. It was a tough F1 start for Derek who failed to qualify his Toleman TG-181-Hart eleven times before making the grid at the season’s final race in Las Vegas. Derek’s Grand Prix debut ended in retirement with gearbox failure, but the Hampshire man was now a fully qualified Grand Prix driver.
1982 and 1983 saw Derek race doggedly in the F1 midfield with his Toleman, battling for every position possible and famously running in second position at Brands Hatch during the 1982 British Grand Prix. Towards the end of the ’83 season Derek’s performance in his TG183B-Hart-4 caught the eye of the Renault team who secured his services for the 1984 season.
If his car’s suspension hadn’t failed in his debut with the French manufacturer at the Brazilian Grand Prix in Rio, Derek would have won his first race for the factory team. Leading the race, Derek’s best chance of F1 victory passed him by that afternoon. However, four podium finishes were achieved during the ’84 season – the closest Derek ever came to standing on the top step as a Grand Prix winner.
Turning down a switch to Williams for 1985, a drive that eventually went the way of Nigel Mansell, Derek stayed with Renault only for the manufacturer to pull out of F1 racing at the end of the season, placing Derek on the out-of-work list. A chance to join the TWR Jaguar programme opened-up and Derek missed out on the Group C drivers’ title by just one point at the season’s end. Midway through the season though, Derek was handed another F1 chance when Elio de Angelis was killed testing at the Paul Ricard circuit. Derek was drafted into the Brabham team by Bernie Ecclestone, contesting ten races in the unloved Brabham BT55-BMW.
Derek then joined Arrows, where he scored many point-scoring finishes. The Arrows car in its A10, A10B and A11 specifications proved a strong contender, and Derek solidified his position as a worthy Grand Prix driver.
A move to Lotus for 1990 looked on paper to be the right decision, but in reality was a different story – the team were under-funded and far from being competitive. Derek showed true determination in Monza when he calmly walked to the pits to climb aboard his spare car for a race restart after he rolled during the opening run on the exit of the Parabolica, and also at Jerez when he raced the day after his team-mate, Martin Donnelly, suffered near fatal injuries during a car destroying qualifying accident.
Derek returned to sportscars for the 1991 season with Jaguar, and then Peugeot in 1992 where he took a share in the Drivers’ title with team-mate, Yannick Dalmas, also winning at Le Mans. Derek’s final season in F1 was in 1993, when he joined the Footwork team. A fourth place finish in Hungary and a sixth in the British was his only points-scoring drive of that year. With competitive F1 drives not available, Derek turned his back on Grand Prix racing and looked for other avenues of the sport to apply his talents.
The British Touring Car Championship provided Derek with this arena and he raced for the Alfa Romeo team in 1995, before co-founding the 888 Engineering team and switching to Vauxhall. At the end of the 1998 season Derek retired from the sport – a race winner in his final year. During his career, Derek also contested the Network Q Rally Great Britain with a Subaru Impreza in 1990.
Off-track, Derek is a true motorsport ambassador. Passionate about British motor racing, Derek champions safety in the sport having suffered great personal loss first hand. Paul, Derek’s brother, was killed at the wheel of a Formula 3000 car at Oulton Park in 1991 and twenty years on, Derek talks lovingly about his brother with a twinkle in his eye as he recalls their times together.
Derek works tirelessly for the British Racing Drivers’ Club, and since election to the Board in 2008, he has been continually at the centre of the decision making process for the Club as the BRDC looks to the future and its commitment to Silverstone as the ‘Home of British Motor Racing’.
Prominent in the formation of the BRDC Super Stars Scheme, where young British racing talent is nurtured, Derek plays a watching brief over the Club’s up-and-coming stars of tomorrow. An area where his experience is valued by those he interacts with.
Derek is married to Rhonda, and they have two daughters – Marie and Kerry.