Thomas Nurmester

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Thomas Nurmester
Nationality Flag of the United Kingdom svg.png British
Born 25th September 1946
Whitby, England
Current Team Tyrrell
Car Number 3
Former Teams Osella
Races 5 (14 entries)
Championships 0
Victories 0
Podiums 0
Points 3
Pole Positions 0
Fastest Laps 0
First Race 1979 Monaco Grand Prix
First Victory N/A
Last Victory N/A
Last Race 1980 Japanese Grand Prix
Best Finish 36th (1979)

Thomas Nurmester in the mid-70s
Thomas Nurmester (b. 25th September 1946 in Whitby, North Yorkshire, England) is a retired British racing driver. He is best known as the father of Nathan and Nick Nurmester and as the Assistant Technical Director of the FIA in the 1990s. He drove for Tyrrell in the 1979 Formula One season as a replacement to Geoff Lees and from 1980 onwards for Osella. Nurmester has been nick-named 'The Monaco Messiah', after scoring points there on his Formula One debut, and dragging the highly uncompetitive Osella to 5th place during the 1980 Monaco Grand Prix.

Early career

Nurmester started his career relatively late at the the age of 17, driving go-karts. However, he clearly had an innate talent for racing, and quickly rose up in the ranks. In the late 60s and early 70s he was a force to be reckoned with in the World Sportscar Championship. But this didn't satiate his hunger for success enough, and his lifelong dream was to drive in Formula One. However, this was denied by his lack of sponsorship; a factor that only recently had become important in the sport. He continued through the seventies driving in the WSC, culminating in the championship title in 1976.

Formula One

Nurmester still attempted to enter Formula One on numerous occasions in the 70s, but all of the attempts failed either because of lack of money or that the teams didn't think that his WSC background counted as sufficient racing experience. Then, when the 1979 season brough about major shuffles in team ownerships and driver lineups, Nurmester knew that it was now or never; he was already nearing his mid-30s, which even in the 70s was quite old for a F1 rookie. He scraped together all the money and sponsors he could get, and offered his services to numerous teams on the grid. But again he failed to convince any of the teams, and it seemed that his F1 dream was finally over.

1979: Tyrrell

Then, after the Brazilian Grand Prix, he was contacted by the Tyrrell team manager saying that a testing seat was available for him. Overjoyed, Nurmester quickly went on to sign the contract, and it seemed that there was still some hope of him driving in F1 at some point. After one test at Kyalami, where he was half a second slower than the regular drivers of the team, he was called up for the race seat after Geoff Lees fell ill with food poisoning before the Monaco GP. He qualified 10th, 5 positions ahead of his more experienced team mate Hiroshi Takagi and went on to finish 8th, scoring a point on his debut. Geoff Lees was well enough to compete in France, so Nurmester was out of the car, eagerly waiting for his next Formula One experience.

1980: Osella and Tyrrell

After the 1979 German Grand Prix, it was announced that a new team in the form of Osella would join the 1980 Formula One season. Thomas Nurmester was signed as the lead driver of the team. However, he was also retained by Tyrrell as their test and reserve driver.

The car's normally-aspirated Alfa Romeo engine was no match to the turbo units, which had become very common after their relative success in 1979. Nurmester stood no chance to qualify and recorded a DNQ in his debut for Osella, followed by four more DNQs in South Africa, Brazil, Belgium and France. However, Monaco again proved to be a good race for him, as he just barely got on the grid in 30th, before carefully managing through an attrition-high race to finish 5th, scoring Osella's debut points in the team's first start. He also qualified for the next race at Dijon-Prenois, but an engine failure put him out of the race. He then finished 14th in the US GP, before failing to qualify in Canada, Ireland, his home round in Great Britain and Germany, before making the grid in the European GP at Vallelunga. However, he retired early on after suffering irrepairable damage in a collision with Didier Pironi.

Not long after the race, it was announced to the shock of many that Nurmester had been sacked from Osella with immediate effect. The team claimed this was due to an ongoing breakdown in the working relations between the team and driver, while Nurmester believed it was because he openly criticised the lack of pace the team was suffering from. After sitting out the next two races, he was called up by Tyrrell again to replace Hiroshi Takagi who had been banned after a collision with Jody Scheckter in the Italian GP.

FIA career

After retiring from active motorsport in the late 1980s, Nurmester started a career in the governing body FIA, eventually reaching the post of Assistant Technical Director in 1995. In 1997, he applied for the FIA presidency, but lost to Chris Forbes in the end. He continued in various jobs for the FIA for a few years after that, until in 2008 he announced a complete retirement from motorsport, at the age of 62.

Personal life

Nurmester was married to Laura in 1970, and the couple had a son, Nathan in 1972. They divorced in 1984. Thomas tried to bring Nathan up as the next British F1 star, but initially his progress was slow and Thomas was getting doubtful of his son's potential. In early 1987, Thomas fell in love with a Finnish exchange student. This affair eventually resulted in the birth of Nick, and when Thomas started to concentrate on him (partly due to believing that the Finnish heritage would make it easier for him to race), Nathan grew more and more estranged of his father. In 1992, he finally cut all the ties with his father, and the two have not talked with each other ever since.

Complete Formula 1 Results

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 WDC Points
1979 Candy Team Tyrrell Tyrrell 009 Ford Cosworth DFV ARG BRA RSA USW ESP BEL MON
1980 Osella Squadra Corse Osella FA1 Alfa Romeo 1260 AUS
AUT ITA 24th* 2*
Team Tyrrell Tyrrell 010 Ford DFT-Turbo JAP

*Season in progress