Paul Warwick

Paul Warwick

29/1/1969 - 22/7/1991

Paul Jason Warwick was born on the 29th of January 1969, the youngest of the Warwick family; older brother Derek and three sisters, with fifteen years between Derek and Paul.

Like Derek, Paul started out in stock cars, winning the World Ministox Championship aged thirteen, and then moving up to Superstox at fifteen. The challenge of racing Ministox had fallen flat, so Paul diddled his age on his racing license in order to progress to the much more powerful machinery. Despite evading the authorities (or maybe they just turned a blind eye) he duly cleaned up and won the British title.

As soon as Paul was seventeen and legally allowed to drive a circuit racing car, he graduated into FF1600 single seaters. Driving for the family run team, he took both the 1986 Townsend Thoresen and Dunlop/Autosport junior titles, winning a total of seventeen races that season. As recognition for his efforts, Paul received the prestigious Autosport Club Driver of the Year award.

Eschewing a works Van Diemen drive in the 1987 senior FF1600 series, Paul moved straight up to FF2000, a wings and slicks category, with the Middlebridge team. In retrospect it was a big mistake - the category was in serious decline, lacking both in finance and manufacturer support and about to be replaced by Formula Vauxhall Lotus. It was a poor year, plagued with frustration, misfortune and uncompetitive machinery and only a single fortuitous win at Zolder to show for it.

Nevertheless his showings were still strong enough to merit a step-up to Formula 3 for 1988, where he would be driving for the champion team of EJR. Eddie's team had steered Johnny Herbert to a convincing win in the previous year's series, but unfortunately, the Reynard 883 and VW Speiss chassis-engine combination proved uncompetitive and Paul spent a frustrating year running in midfield. Niggling problems persisted throughout the year, these often compounded by misfortune, bizarre mechanical faults and ill health. He spent much of his time chasing the elusive Intersport Ralt Toyotas of Damon Hill and Martin Donnelly and the Bowman of Gary Brabham.

Needless to say, Paul signed up for Glenn Waters' Intersport team for 1989, with Vincenzo Sospiri as his team mate. With extensive Cellnet backing and a proven track record, it looked like the right move and for the first time, he would be driving as a paid professional in his own right rather than as a paying journeyman. Yet things at Intersport were not always what they seemed and as a result of financial constraints placed upon them by sponsors, the team was operating with one hand tied behind its back.

Again as in the previous season with EJR, Paul was in the right place at the wrong time and spent another frustrating season in midfield, struggling with a Reynard chassis that was worse than the previous year's and a Toyota engine that wheezed and coughed like a 60-a-day smoker. Midway through the season, Damon Hill was supplemented into the team to strengthen the line-up but that backfired when Damon proved to be less able in the car than Paul and Vincenzo. Both eventually walked out and returned to other comitments, and the second Intersport car was campaigned by Jason Elliott and then Paulo Carcasi - in the televised rounds only. Even a change to the Ralt chassis had no effect on the team's abysmal performances.

The end of 1989 saw Paul at a crossroads in his career, leaving him with some tough decisions to make if he was going to stay in motor racing. As Paul saw it, he had three options to consider: move up into F3000, move down into Formula Vauxhall Lotus or stay in F3 for a third consecutive season and put further strain on a reputation that was beginning to suffer. Moving up a category could be both perilous and expensive and moving down a category could backfire so Paul elected to spend a third season in Formula Three.

With the top-line reluctant to engage his services and with nothing really left to lose, Paul took a gamble and signed for Superpower, a team new to Formula Three and an unknown quantity. At Superpower, Paul would find old friends in a new environment - the team principal was none other than John Macdonald who had run Paul in FF2000 three years earlier.

Although early season performances were encouraging, the expected performance never truly materialised. Eclipsed by less experienced drivers in better-financed cars, Paul's disillusionment with F3 came to a head in mid season when he walked out on the series before the British Grand Prix support race. It was the closest he came to quitting the sport entirely.

In the mean time, Paul drove in a few Honda CRX Challenge races in one of his brother's cars but it was essentially a stop gap measure while he was searching for the opportunity to move up to F3000. His persistence in pursuing a driver eventually paid off as he was snapped up by Leyton House Racing to drive the remaining four races in the European F3000 championship for them. Paul knew it was a temporary measure, as the team was winding up it's F3000 operation to concentrate on their floundering F1 efforts.

Freed from the oppressive pressure to perform in the goldfish bowl environment of F3 and not expected to shine in the horrendously uncompetitive Leyton House, Paul finally found peace of mind. He could concentrate on his driving without being constantly under scrutiny and it showed. His best race in F3000 that season, was on the tight streets of Birmingham for the August Bank Holiday Superprix where he acquitted himself well to bring his car home eighth - the best finish for a works Leyton House all season.

By this time, Nigel Mansell had bought a controlling interest in Madgwick Motorsport, which had taken Pedro Chaves to a runaway series win in the British F3000 series. Mansell, duly impressed by Paul's competent performances in the Euro series and during testing for MMM, signed him up as the team's lead driver for the 1991 UK championship.

From the start, Paul was on the pace. He won the Good Friday series opener at Oulton Park, his first win for four years. Paul Warwick was well and truly back. He won again at Donington Park in the second round, and then twice again at Brand's Hatch in rounds three and four, dominating the championship. As a result of his performances, Paul was being linked with an F1 seat, a drive in the prestigious Japanese F3000 series or a berth in the Japanese Sports Prototype championship.

Then came the fifth round of the series at Oulton Park on the 21st of July 1991. Leading the race comfortably with only a few laps to go, his Reynard 90D inexplicably (later found to be front right suspension failure) left the road at the Knickerbrook, and slammed into the earth bank on the outside of the corner. Paul was flung from the car in the impact into the crowd. He died of his injuries in hospital, without recovering consciousness. Paul was twenty two years old.

Witolda Maruszewska

Leave a comment

Comments