Obituaries

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Chris Meek

He may have come to motor racing as a driver, but Chris Meek left his mark as the colourful owner and driving force behind Mallory Park race circuit. When track owner Grovewood Securities decided to sell, BRSCC organiser Edwina Overend approached Meek’s company Titan Properties and in 1982 he purchased the venue. With Meek at the head until recently, the circuit negotiated many challenges, notably over noise, but continued to thrive as a popular venue with the tag of ‘the friendly circuit’.

Chris Meek raced motorcycles first, but in the mid-50s turned to 500cc F3 and then sports cars, in Lotus and Elva machinery, winning the 1960 Phoenix Park Gold Flake Trophy. After a stint in Formula Junior in 1962 he had notable national success from 1964 in works Ginettas.
F2 later proved less productive and some long-distance racing ended in a big accident at the Nürburgring, but Formula Ford brought more reward. In the 1970 season he raced Titans sponsored by his own firm, while driving a Lotus 69F with Tate of Leeds backing he won the 1971 BRSCC Northern Formula Ford Championship. 

Moving into Formula Atlantic, Meek encountered rising star Tom Pryce and gave him financial and management backing, until Pryce joined the Shadow F1 team. Meek himself continued racing in production sports cars, often in far from obvious choices such as De Tomaso Pantera and a Panther Lima. Nevertheless he had a string of lap records to his name and collected six championships throughout the later 1970s, while also indulging a penchant for exercising his succession of Ferrari road cars and rapid motorbikes on the open road. Though his racing diminished from the ’80s, Meek became a Life Member of the BRDC and remained a flamboyant figure in British racing. He died in May after a battle with cancer.

Neil Cunningham

One of UK motor racing’s most popular characters, Neil Cunningham has died aged 53 from motor neurone disease. Born in New Zealand, Cunningham came to Europe in 1983 to compete in FF2000. Despite good results, funds were insufficient; he switched to Eurocars, then became an accomplished GT racer. After his final start in 2011 he set up a charity to fund MND research: www.racing4mnd.org.

John Thornburn

John Thornburn, who managed future world champion Nigel Mansell in his early years, has died aged 78. He started out in team management with the Team Elite Lotus squad in the 1960s, going on to manage Alan McKechnie’s F5000 team that won the ShellSport European title in 1974. Thornburn worked with young drivers through the 1990s, advising Mansell’s sons Greg and Leo when they started racing.

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