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Thread: Wally Willmott R.I.P.

  1. #1

    Wally Willmott R.I.P.

    Autosport has reported that Wally Willmott died yesterday. So sad and coming so soon after the death of Robin Herd.

  2. #2
    Wally collapsed waiting for his luggage at Auckland Airport in July 2016. He spent three weeks in Middlemore before being flown back to Invercargill with the full medical assistance. He was told "aggressive cancer" and it was made pretty clear that he wouldn't see Christmas.

    My wife and I saw him in Middlemore the day before he was to leave - it was all a bit emotional because we all thought that that was the last time we'd see him. But Wal had too many projects on the go - in Hospital he showed us the new injection system he'd brought back from Canada and while he knew it would make his car quicker, there was the question of 'how much quicker?' still be resolved.

    He read all he could about beating cancer, he changed his diet dramatically and set to work on the projects. There were some setbacks - he phoned one day and I was certain someone else was using his phone...he sounded terrible. That was late 2016 and I figured the doctors were right. However the news kept getting better and he phoned one day, sounding like the old Wal again, with news that he had full confidence in his oncologist because his name was McLaren.

    He was soon back racing and in May he came to stay for the Bruce McLaren movie premiere - he'd worked closely with Roger Donaldson and a genuine friendship had developed. When we saw him at Geezers in November 2017, there was no question of 'not seeing Christmas.'

    He continued travelling to Sydney to see his beloved daughter Samala and her two boys, and he continued on with an extraordinary dose of positive mental attitude. Then, last September when we were in the Schlumpf Museum, I got a text - 'Things are developing, we need to talk'. It was the familiar story "you won't see..."

    Wally being Wally ignored that and with a new management system now on his car, got a temporary licence for a meeting at Teretonga. The system went into lock-down and it didn't move an inch - I think that was late October or early November. He would often say - "there are two sorts of days at the track you ever remember - the really, really good days, and the really, really bad"

    So, having had one of the latter - in what he thought might be his last race meeting, he got another extension. That would have been a few weeks later, and back at Teretonga - near where he lived in his adopted Invercargill. This time everything worked - in four races, he won three - one off the back - and in the fourth he set a new PB. Not bad for a guy not supposed to see Christmas.

    Having now seen three extra Christmases he decided now was the time to buy a new car - new second hand - and so in late January (just over four months ago) he bought a one-way ticket to Auckland. I collected him from the airport and we went straight on the hunt of a car so that he could drive to Cape Reinga ("I've been all over the world but never further north than Orewa"), and then the length of the country to home.

    Somewhere in the Manawatu he got a speeding ticket and joked about not paying - "what's the worst they can do to me?" - but before the journey there was important stuff happening at Hampton Downs where he was one of the 22 'Golden Inductees' of living legends into the new Grand Prix Legends Club - and being crew chief on a yellow Crossle Formula Ford...

    He raced at Teretonga in February and quietly hinted that that was probably his last race. In May he suffered a stroke that affected his left side and his speech - we spoke about 10 days ago and despite everything going on, there was still that fighting spirit and dry, dry humour. Samala had moved the family over soon after getting news about the stroke and his sister Anne came down from their hometown of Timaru.

    Samala phoned on Thursday with the news that the doctors were expecting 'anytime now'. This time there could be no fightback but as ever, even when you know what to expect, there is still that kick when you get the news. His stories were fantastic and yet again confirmed that it is the mechanics who really knew the truth.

    Rest in peace Wal - you'll certainly never be forgotten.

  3. #3
    World Champion Roger Dowding's Avatar
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    Great comments Michael.. and yes RIP Wally Willmot, and as mentioned Robin Herd in the UK..both mentioned on the McLaren Heritage Fb page today.

  4. #4
    World Champion
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    Thanks Michael for sharing such warm memories of a wonderful mechanic and friend to all who knew him.
    Your stories made me cry.
    As I sit here almost at mid night waiting to hear how our daughter is doing as she is about to give birth to our first grand child and thinking how one life had come to an end and another is about to begin.
    We are blessed to have people like you on this forum and also what a good friend you were to Wally and his family.
    R.I.P. Wally


    I forgot to mention that I met Wally one time in Sydney in 1970 as he was opening a tune up shop near the harbour at Woolloomooloo. A very humble man.

    (Ken H)
    Last edited by khyndart in CA; 06-08-2019 at 06:21 AM.

  5. #5
    Ken, best wishes for your daughter. You are about to discover exactly how the word besotted actually feels!

  6. #6
    Journeyman Racer
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    Please read Wally Willmott's life story on the Nostalgia forum.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Clark View Post
    Ken, best wishes for your daughter. You are about to discover exactly how the word besotted actually feels!
    Michael has written a Beautiful Tribute to Wally and around 11 years ago Wally and I showed his life before and after racing. I am sure he would want his Family and friends to be able to enjoy his story.

    https://forums.autosport.com/topic/1...ally-willmott/


    Wally's Buddy
    Jerry Entin

  7. #7
    Journeyman Racer
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    Wally Willmott in the M 23 McLaren Formula One car

  8. #8
    Journeyman Racer
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    Wally Willmott at Goodwood taking a Victory Lap
    He is in Jay Esterer's Chinook which has just won the Whitsun Cup with Wally as crew chief.

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