It is with a great feeling of personal sadness that we report the death of Roger Willis, Castrol’s Public Information Controller and erstwhile Competitions Manager, who succumbed to leukemia last month at the age of 35.
Roger Willis was “Mr. Castrol” to the British motor sporting scene, whose enthusiastic personality and boundless energy had made him one of the best known and most liked back room boys of the sport. His cheery Northern voice was known to thousands for his commentary at sporting events throughout Britain and from the chair at countless forums. It was he who promoted the highly successful series of Castrol Quizzes throughout Britain. During his tenure as Castrol’s Competitions Manager he was responsible for guiding the oil company’s activities in all forms of motoring sport on four and two wheels. It was he who masterminded the development of the special stage rally series which has now developed into the British National Rally Championship. Many well-known racing and rally drivers and riders had cause to thank him for sponsorship and help with their careers. The Lancastrian’s own career began in his father’s industrial photography business, his motoring enthusiasm growing the while through participation firstly as a marshal, thence as an occasional rally driver and finally as co-driver before Castrol, whom he joined in 1965, directed his enthusiasm into the post of representative for the International Competitions Department.
He cut loose from Castrol to join the Rallies Department of Motor Sport’s sister journal Motoring News here at Standard House, but soon found journalism wasn’t his forte and returned to the oil company’s fold.
Before Castrol moved to Swindon, Roger Willis’s London flat at Bolton Road was a notorious “overnight halt” for rally and racing personalities. Among the more permanent residents over the years were the late Chris Lambert, Simo Lampinen, John Davenport, Mike Wood and Brian Culcheth, Motor Sport’s Deputy Editor joined the list when he first moved to London.
Few people involved directly in motoring sport give as much to it as they take out. Roger Willis gave much more. His unflagging efforts, enthusiasm and unique personality will be sadly missed.
Our sincere sympathy goes to his wife Fiona, and his family — C.R.
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After a two-year lapse while maintenance was carried out, the Lancashire Automobile Club’s Woodvale Sprint Course, near Southport, will reopen next season. Any Championship secretaries wishing to include the venue (which gave many prominent drivers, including Brian Redman, their first taste of competition) in their Championships should contact the General Secretary, Lancashire Automobile Club, White Gables, Elswick, Preston. Interested competitors/marshals should contact the Club at the same address.
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