Wheelspin - January 2006  

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As you will be aware from the last Newsletter Chris lost his fight against cancer in November. His funeral took place on 7th December with a memorial service afterwards at New Hall School, Chelmsford where some 400 people attended. One of the tributes read out at the service was from Chris's Co-Driver Malcolm Heymer and I think this serves as a fitting Obituary to Chris, so for those of you who could not attend the service, Malcolm's tribute is reproduced below.

Chris and I began our rallying partnership almost 30 years ago, in 1976. At that time we had both been members of West Essex Car Club for a couple of years. Chris had competed on two road rallies, with two different navigators, neither of whom had volunteered - or been asked - to repeat the experience. Perhaps this should have been a warning to me, but when one club night - after a couple of beers - Chris asked me to navigate for him on the club's Breckland road rally, I agreed.

Well, we didn't exactly set the world alight on that first event together. We finished 61st, but we did complete the route and we stayed on the road all night - a feat that would not always be achieved on future events. Several bodywork repair specialists can vouch for that. After a couple of years in road rallies we moved on to local stage rallies, and then progressed through national to international events, including 7 RAC Rallies. In the last few years we concentrated mainly on classic rallies. In all, we competed together on about 120 events.

We had our share of incidents and accidents over the years, and Chris had a tendency to play to the crowd. So our biggest accidents always took place in front of an appreciative audience. Our best effort - if you can call it that - had to be on the 1993 RAC Rally, when on an icy Welsh forest stage we slid off the road and rolled into the trees - right in front of an amateur cameraman. The BBC was very impressed, so much so that they showed the footage at every available opportunity. They even used it in the preview programme for the following year's event. Our moment of fame!

What turned out to be our last event together was a 6-day classic rally in Ireland in May this year. Sadly we did not complete the event. After a couple of days the car developed a clutch problem, but Chris was also finding that he did not have the stamina to haul the heavy Mustang around the Irish lanes for 10 hours a day. So we retired, but we did not go home. We hired a road car and followed the rest of the rally, both to enjoy the wonderful scenery and for the camaraderie of the other competitors and rally officials, who we had got to know over the years. The social side of rallying has always been. one of its most enjoyable aspects - as those who remember, the Greyhound Hotel in Builth Wells will testify. Despite the setback in Ireland, Chris continued to look to the future, when he hoped to regain enough fitness to compete on more rallies. Even in what turned out to be the last few weeks of his life, he was planning to compete on a week-long classic rally in the Alps next July. He never gave up.

By a sad coincidence, Chris passed away on the same day as Richard Burns, the former world rally champion. He had been suffering from a brain tumour. In last week's Motorsport News there were extensive articles and tributes to him, but one quote that stood out for me was from his co-driver, Robert Reid, speaking about the way Richard had dealt with his illness. He said:

Richard's target was always to survive his illness and he was always surrounded by a lot of hopeful and optimistic people who shared the same belief. The fact he survived so long has left a lot of consultants and medical people scratching their heads. Unfortunately he couldn't beat it. His focus was always to do the best he could and that was the approach he took with this battle.

It is hard to think of better words to describe the way Chris approached his battle with illness.

Chris got a great deal of pleasure from his motor sport, but he also gave a lot back. As chairman of West Essex for 12 years and competition secretary before that, he was always looking for new events for the club to promote. Through sponsorship by his company, Rees Engineering, he helped secure the future of several events, including the Millbrook National stages, the club's premier rally.

Chris was a very determined character and his manner could sometimes be - shall we say direct. Despite this, we rarely argued on a rally. I didn't tell him how to drive and he didn't tell me how to read a map. Our partnership was one in which we complemented each other.

Above all, Chris was a very good and loyal friend, and I shall miss him enormously. But it is Chris's family, especially Annette and Dominic, who will obviously miss him the most, and it is with them that our thoughts and prayers should be today. I'm sure all of us will do our best to support them in the coming months and years.

Club Secretary