After bravely fighting a losing battle against cancer for nearly a year, Gunnar Nilsson finally succumbed on October 20th.
The 29-year-old Swede had proved himself as a front runner in Formula One in his short career with John Player Lotus. He won the 1977 Belgian Grand Prix for Lotus after a fine drive in the rain. His illness prevented him taking up a contract with the Arrows team for 1978.
Days before his death, Nilsson launched a campaign to raise £350,000 to help fellow cancer sufferers. Details of the Campaign are given in the letter below, received from Nilsson just before his death.
Donations to the Campaign should be made out to The Gunnar Nilsson Cancer Treatment Campaign and sent c/o Motor Sport, Standard House, Bonhill Street, London EC2A 4DA.
The Gunnar Nilsson Cancer Treatment Campaign
As you know, for the past nine months I have been fighting a battle against cancer. I am sorry to tell you it is a battle I may be about to lose.
This is despite the magnificent dedicated and sympathetic treatment I have received from Dr. Norman Howard, Dr. Edward Newlands and all the staff at London’s New Charing Cross Hospital. I think it must be said that the only reason they may fail is because I went to them for treatment too late.
They can and have, however, saved many lives but require financial help if they are to maintain and extend their existing facilities. The economical situation for Charing Cross Hospital is, in fact, so critical that they may have to close some departments. This would in my opinion be a catastrophe.
Charing Cross Hospital is also in need of new modern equipment to be better able to fight against cancer in the future. I know that this hospital has a world famous medical staff in radiotherapy and ontology. Therefore with some economic help I believe this hospital could carry out some of the most effective treatment in these fields in the whole world.
This is why I have taken the initiative in this campaign and I will myself contribute a large sum of money towards the campaign. The campaign will be organised by a committee of the following people: Dr. Daniel O’Connell, Head of the Radiotherapy Department at Charing Cross Hospital, Dr. Norman Howard, Mr. David Mason, Mr. Jackie Oliver and Mr. Barrie Gill.
The purpose of this letter is to ask you to help them. I cannot in the letter outline all the ways in which you may be able to help out but I know that the committee and many of my other close friends are determined to carry out the campaign on my behalf.
I would ask you most sincerely to give them all the help you can.