DRIVERS: MIKE THACKWELL
Name: Mike Thackwell
Nationality: New Zealand
Date of birth: March 30, 1961 - Auckland
Mike Thackwell was born into racing, his father Ray having been a privateer in Formula 2 in the 1950s. Thackwell waltzed through the junior formulae and emerged as one of the frontrunners in the British Formula 3 Championship in 1979, winning five races but being beaten to the title by Ron Dennis's charge Chico Serra.
He was signed up by Ken Tyrrell to be a test driver in 1980 but raced for the ICI March Formula 2 team. In the midseason Arrows driver Jochen Mass was injured in a crash in Austria and so Tyrrell lent Thackwell to Arrows for the Dutch GP. He failed to qualify. A few weeks later, still 19, Thackwell was given the chance to drive a third Tyrrell at the Canadian GP, becoming the youngest driver ever to start a World Championship Grand Prix.
The race was stopped because of a first lap accident and Thackwell's car was then requisitioned by team leader Jean-Pierre Jarier. Thackwell was considered to be one of the stars of the future and was signed up to partner Geoff Lees in the Ralt-Honda Formula 2 team. He won the first race at Silverstone but a month later had a huge accident at Thruxton and suffered head injuries and a badly broken foot. He fought his way back into Formula 2 with the Horag March team, returned to Ralt in 1983 and won again at Jarama that summer. He finished runner-up to Jonathan Palmer in the European Formula 2 Championship. The following year, still with Ralt, he won the title with seven wins in 11 races.
Suddenly he was back in favour again. That summer he drove for RAM in Canada and stood in for Stefan Bellof in a Tyrrell in Germany. He also tested for Williams and in the autumn replaced the injured Rick Mears in the Penske CART team.
Unable to get a decent drive in Formula 1, he raced in the new Formula 3000, winning the first race in the new series and adding two further victories but finished the year runner-up to Christian Danner. He also had a deal to race with the TWR Jaguar team, which forced him to pass up the chance to race for Ligier after the team fired Andrea de Cesaris. In 1986 he won races in Formula 3000 both in Europe and Japan and scored Mercedes-Benz' first major modern racing success when he shared a Sauber with Henri Pescarolo to win the Nurburgring 1000. But attempts to get into F1 all fell flat and at the end of 1987 - when he was still only 26 - he walked away from the sport.
After a period flying helicopters he became a teacher.