Kieth O’dor, his family and friends, experienced the ecstasy and tragedy so inextricably linked to motorsport on Sunday September 10. The 33-year-old Englishman suffered a dreadful accident whilst competing in the German Supertourenwagen Cup at Avus, and he succumbed to his injuries in a Berlin hospital in the early hours of the following morning.
I can still see Jan, his father and team-owner, bursting with pride as Kieth stayed resolutely calm to fend off the BMW of touring car benchmark, Steve Soper, in the 1993 British Grand Prix support race to score Nissan’s first and to date only BTCC victory. This was the performance that quelled suggestions of sheer nepotism at Janspeed. Sure, the father was protective of his progeny, but equally his progeny had proved himself a winner in the highest level of his chosen category.
Likewise, Kieth’s victory in the Supertourenwagen ‘sprint’ race at Avus just hours before his fatal accident would have given Jan immense satisfaction.
There can be no doubt that O’dor was a vastly underrated racing driver. Sadly, he will never now shake off the ‘favoured man’ tag he was labelled with at Janspeed, but the likes of Win Percy and Eric van de Poele, his former BTCC team-mates, will testify to this quiet man’s pace.
In 1993, he finished sixth in the BTCC, scored a victory, set pole positions and raced determinedly. He wasn’t the greatest dicer saloon car racing has ever seen, and his racecraft would sometimes would be called into question, but he shut up plenty of critics that season.
It was ironic, however, that this undemonstrative man will be remembered for the severity of his accidents. His fence clearing roll in the 1992 TOCA Shoot Out at Donington Park will never be forgotten. And in 1994 he suffered a run of shunts, most of which were unavoidable, that would have tested the patience of a saint. Yet it is the cavalier nature of the sport, which will always bubble just under the surface, that meant it never occurred to you that one day he might not simply step out of his Primera unhurt.
This season was a watershed for Kieth. Racing away from the UK for the first time, away from Janspeed’s overtly obvious umbrella, he was proving more than a match for his team-mates, Ivan CapeIli and Sascha Maassen. His pole position at Avus in a year-old car came as a surprise to many, but his unbending determination to convert this into a victory should have come as no surprise to those who have met him on the track.
It was Nissan’s first win in this German Super Touring series. It should have been a turning-point. Instead, it will remain always as a bitter-sweet tribute.
To his wife Anita, his family and friends, we offer our sincerest condolences.
• We regret to record the sudden passing of CE ‘Johnny’ Johnson. Born in 1918, Johnson designed Britain’s first post-war F1 Grand Prix winner, the Connaught B-Type with which Tony Brooks defeated the might of the works Maserati team in the non-championship race at Syracuse on 23 October 1955. Our sympathies go out to his family and friends.