Joe Tandy, 1983-2009
|By Ben Anderson||Thursday, May 14th 2009, 12:07 GMT|
Joe Tandy's death yesterday afternoon, at the age of just 26, has removed the linchpin of one of the brightest emerging teams in British single-seater racing.
An accomplished racer in his own right, the Bedfordshire-based driver turned engineer became obsessed with motorsport from an early age and made his first foray into the sport through Short Oval Ministock racing aged 11.
A keen rugby player, footballer and swimmer during his school years, Tandy nevertheless remained undeterred from the motorsport path and won the World and National Ministox titles in 1998, aged 15, adding a further national title the following year.
Tandy graduated to circuit racing two years later, competing with moderate success in the Mini Se7en Challenge from 2001 until 2004 and in the latter days of the TVR Tuscan Challenge.
Meanwhile, after finishing college and completing an engineering apprenticeship, Tandy began working as a technician for Jonathan Palmer's Palmersport corporate driving days concern.
His engineering acumen elevated him to chief mechanic by the age of 22, while his racing career continued to go from strength to strength.
The opportunity for him to test a Formula Palmer Audi single-seater at Bedford Autodrome resulted in him breaking IndyCar star Justin Wilson's then lap record. Tandy decided this was enough of an incentive to make the leap from 70bhp Mini racing, to 350bhp single-seaters.
He sold his Mini, found the budget to compete in the 2005 FPA championship and promptly won the title at his first attempt - taking six wins across the season, which included a triumph on his category debut at Oulton Park.
Tandy also made the final of that year's McLaren Autosport BRDC Award, but a lack of funds and opportunities to progress his own career prompted him to turn his attentions to younger brother Nick, who had just won the BRDC Single Seater Championship having also trodden the Ministocks and Mini circuit-racing path.
Problems with the works Ray team in British Formula Ford stifled Nick's progress mid-way through the following season and, after cutting a deal to buy a Ray chassis, Joe set up his own Joe Tandy Racing team to run Nick for the rest of the campaign.
Nick won on his JTR debut at Thruxton in 2006 and added a further triumph at the Castle Combe season finale.
That success prompted a team expansion to three cars for the following season as Nick won a further six races and finished third in the standings - firmly establishing JTR as a championship frontrunner.
JTR also became the first team to win the Formula Ford Festival on the road in a Ray chassis that year, before a safety car infringement and subsequent exclusion robbed the Tandys of their success.
In order to continue Nick's rise through the motorsport ranks, JTR purchased a Mygale Formula 3 chassis and graduated to British F3 for 2008, while also switching its emerging Formula Ford squad to running the French manufacturer's cars instead of Rays.
The Tandys went on to earn the respect and admiration of the entire British F3 paddock for turning an unfancied car into a regular frontrunner, railing against the established Dallara hordes with a small operation and a meagre budget - driven by little more than fierce intellect, a straight-talking attitude and a shared passion for the sport.
This tragedy comes just as Joe looked to set to help propel his brother into the ranks of British F3 race winners and title contenders.
AUTOSPORT offers its sincere condolences to Tandy's family and friends at this difficult time.