Motorsport world lost many great people in 2017

  • John Surtees CBE 2016
  • Angel Nieto

At the end of 2017, we are summarizing all the results and achievements of the sporting year behind us, but also are making the final account and counting the numbers of people who left us during the previous year.

Unfortunately, many great names of motorsport moved to the tombstones during 2017. Let’s see who aren’t among us anymore.

John Surtees

John Surtees

John Surtees – the only world champ on 2 and 4 wheels

The greatest of all motorsport personalities who died in 2017 definitely was John Surtees (born 1934, died March 10), the multiple motorcycle world champion and Formula One champion in 1964, the only person who won World Championships on both two and four wheels.

Before his death, Surtees was the oldest living Formula 1 champion. Now, that honor is on Jackie Stewart.

The oldest living Indy 500 veteran passed away

Across the ocean, in the US, another record holder died in January. Chuck Weyant (born 1923, died January 23) was the oldest living Indianapolis 500 veteran. He made four starts in the greatest American race between 1955 and 1959, in a time when that race was a part of the Formula 1 World Championship, so he was among the oldest living former F1 drivers.

Besides Surtees and Weyant, the list of living former Formula 1 drivers became shorter for seven more names. The former drivers who passed away in 2017 were Ian Stewart, Tim Parnell, Mike Taylor, Massimo Natili, John Nicholson, Leo Kinnunen and Patrick Neve.

British racer Ian Stewart (born 1929, died March 19) made his name in sports car races, especially at the wheel of Jaguar D-Type, but he also made one start in the F1 Championship, driving a private Connaught Type A at 1953 British Grand Prix.

Tim Parnell (born 1932, died April 5) is a son of famous British racer and team manager Reg Parnell (1911-1964), taking over father’s managing duties in a family racing team and later leading the BRM Formula 1 team. As a driver, Tim Parnell participated in four F1 Championship Grand Prix events between 1959 and 1963, recording two starts.

Mike Taylor (born 1934, died April 4) was a British racer who recorded two participations in the F1 World Championship. He raced at the 1959 British Grand Prix in a Cooper T45-Climax and suffered serious injuries during a practice crash at the 1960 Belgian Grand Prix in a Lotus 18-Climax.

The Italian Massimo Natili (born 1935, died September 19) also recorded two participations in the F1 World Championship, starting at the 1961 British Grand Prix in a Cooper T51-Maserati and practicing for the 1961 Italian Grand Prix but handing a car to a teammate.

The New Zealander John Nicholson (born 1941, died September 19) also had one Grand Prix start on his account, at the 1975 British Grand Prix with Lyncar F1 car, but he became more famous as an engine builder in a cooperation with McLaren.

Leo Kinnunen 1974

Leo Kinnunen

Leo Kinnunen – first F1 driver from Finland

Leo Kinnunen (born 1943, died July 26) was the first Formula 1 Grand Prix driver from Finland when he made an F1 debut in the 1974 Swedish Grand Prix, driving a Surtees TS16 for AAW Racing Team. In the same season, he failed to qualify for five more Grand Prix races. He was much more successful in the sports car racing, helping Porsche to win the 1970 World Championship title. Among his triumphs was a victory at 1970 Daytona 24 Hours in a Porsche 917K.

Patrick Neve (born 1949, died March 12) was a Belgian racer with ten starts in the F1 World Championship, most notably as the first ever driver hired by Frank Williams’ new team in 1977.

Among the great names of Grand Prix racing was also Eric Broadley (born 1928, died May 28), a British entrepreneur and engineer who was a founder and chief designer of Lola Cars, a company which saw many victorious moments in premier racing competitions.

Timo Mäkinen

Timo Mäkinen

Timo Mäkinen – the original Flying Finn

The world of rally lost one of its greatest legends in 2017. Timo Mäkinen (born 1938, died May 4) was one of the original Flying Finns. He achieved some of his greatest results in an era before the World Rally Championship was established, such were victories at Rallye Monte-Carlo or Rally Finland. In the WRC era, he recorded 39 starts and four wins, including legendary three wins in a row at the RAC Rally.

Two champions from the early days of saloon/touring car racing passed away in 2017. Bill Pitt (born 1926, died February 23) was the Australian Touring Car champion in 1961, driving a Jaguar 3.4 Litre. Sir John Whitmore (born 1937, died April 28) was the British Saloon Car Championship winner in 1961 and the European Touring Car Championship Division 2 winner in 1965.

Don Nichols – a founder of the Shadow Racing Cars

In the United States, we recorded twelve notable deaths connected with motorsports during 2017. The oldest was Don Nichols (born 1924, died August 21), a founder of the Shadow Racing Cars company and Formula 1 team. Jim McElreath (born 1928, died May 18) was an American racer who was successful in the USAC National Championship. He recorded fifteen starts at the Indianapolis 500, finishing best in the third place in 1966.

Preston Henn (born 1931, died April 30) was an American businessman and racing driver with some success in the sports car racing, including a victory at Daytona 24 Hours in 1983. Joe Leonard (born 1932, died April 27) was an American racer who scored one pole and two podiums at Indianapolis 500. Bill Puterbaugh (born 1936, died October 9) was an American race car driver in the USAC Championship series, the 1975 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.

Sam Ard (born 1939, died April 2) was an American stock car racer, two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion in 1983 and 1984. He scored 22 wins in 93 NASCAR starts. Paul ‘Bud’ Moore (born 1941, died August 1) was an American stock car racing driver who was active during the 1960s. He was most known as Little Bud to avoid confusion with team owner with the same name.

Pete Hamilton – the 1970 Daytona 500 winner

Another stock car racer who died in 2017 was Pete Hamilton (born 1942, died March 21). He recorded 68 NASCAR starts between 1968 and 1973, winning four times, including a victory at 1970 Daytona 500. Billy Scott (born 1948, died April 28) was an American racer who participated in different racing disciplines during the 1970s, including open-wheel racing, stock car racing and drag racing.

Theodore ‘Ted’ Christopher (born 1958, died September 16) was an American stock car racer who was most successful in NASCAR Modified competitions, scoring 48 victories. Dave Steele (born 1972, died March 25) was an American sprint car racer with some IndyCar and NASCAR experience. The youngest racer who died in 2017 was Shane Sieg (born 1982, died August 19), a former stock car racer who recorded 70 NASCAR starts until 2011.

Angel Nieto

Angel Nieto

Two motorcycle world champions lost their lives in 2017

The motorcycle racing world lost two legends and world champions. The Spaniard Angel Nieto (born 1947, died August 3) was one of the greatest in a history, collecting thirteen world motorcycle championship titles and winning 90 Grand Prix races. At the age 70, Nieto was hit by a car while driving his quad bike in Ibiza.

Another motorcycle world champion also died after an accident. The American Nicky Hayden (born 1981, died May 22) was hit by a car while riding his bicycle near Rimini, Italy. The popular rider, nicknamed The Kentucky Kid, was the 2006 MotoGP champion.

Three deaths at 2017 Isle of Man TT

Motorcycle races proved again to be dangerous at the annual Isle of Man TT race, known also as the deadliest motorsport event in the world. Unfortunately, the number of fatal victims has been increased by three in 2017. The drivers who lost their lives were Englishman Davey Lambert (48), Dutchman Jochem van den Hoek (28) and Irishman Alan Bonner (33).

The rally community also lost two members. The Ukrainian rally driver Sergiy Korobeinkov (born 1956, died September 9) died as a co-driver to Andriy Panenko in a fatal crash at Rally Bukovyna. The French rally driver Antony Mora (born 1975, died October 8) lost a life in a fatal crash in the French Cup rally event.

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