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Brands tragedy

PUBLISHED: 18:02 22 July 2009 | UPDATED: 10:51 23 August 2010

Goodwood Festival of Speed
3-5/07/09
Henry Surtees demonstrates his father John's newly restored Surtees TS10 Formula 2 car from 1972.
Picture by: Simon Hildrew

Goodwood Festival of Speed 3-5/07/09 Henry Surtees demonstrates his father John's newly restored Surtees TS10 Formula 2 car from 1972. Picture by: Simon Hildrew

MOTORSPORT fans and competitors have been rocked by the death of a racing legend s son at Brands Hatch - the THIRD tragedy linked to the venue within 16 months. Formula Two (F2) driver Henry Surtees - son of motorsport hero John Surtees - was killed in a

MOTORSPORT fans and competitors have been rocked by the death of a racing legend's son at Brands Hatch - the THIRD tragedy linked to the venue within 16 months.

Formula Two (F2) driver Henry Surtees - son of motorsport hero John Surtees - was killed in a freak accident at the West Kingsdown circuit as he raced at 120mph on Sunday.

Fans from across north Kent and south-east London watched in horror as a wheel from another driver's car hurtled towards Surtees, 18, before bouncing off his head. It is less than a year after motorbike racer Craig Jones died on the British leg of the World Supersport Championship at the venue.

Just a few months earlier, ex-professional driver Richard Lloyd and former British Touring Car Championship race winner David Leslie died in the Farnborough air crash. They were close friends of Brands Hatch boss Jonathon Palmer and were regularly spotted at the track. In total, five people were killed when their Cessna Citation plane smashed into a house shortly after leaving Biggin Hill Airport.

On Monday, leading the tributes to his son, 75-year-old John Surtees, the only man to win world championships on both four and two wheels, said: "Henry had followed his heart from the time he first sat in a kart.

"The world beckoned and he was thriving on the freedom to concentrate on his motorsport. Despite bad luck in his motorsport, he had shown himself to be one with the possibilities of reaching the very top.

"Most importantly he was a nice person and a loving son. He will be deeply missed."

Henry, who dreamed of emulating his dad's success, spoke to the Reporter just a fortnight before his death, saying: "It's everybody's dream. I would love to race a Formula One (F1) car. Driving an F1 car is what I want to do, it's the essence of motorsport, the purest form of racing and where everyone wants to be."

But on Sunday the son of the Bromley-born legend was killed when rival racer Jack Clarke crashed, sending a tyre bouncing across the track and onto his head. It was a few days after he claimed his first ever podium finish in the series.

Coincidentally, the fourth corner of the famous Kent circuit is named after Surtees senior for his exemplary service in the sport.

Henry Surtees, who had recently completed his A-levels, was rushed to Royal London Hospital following the horrific smash, but was pronounced dead.

Debris, including a wheel, broke free from his rival's car, knocking out Surtees and causing him to crash into a barrier between Westfield and Sheene corner.

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Jonathan palmer the chief executive of MotorSport Vision the company who Brands Hatch and a former F1 driver said it had been the saddest time in his 35 year racing career.

His son Jolyon - who survived a life threatening quad bike accident two years before - is also an F2 prospect and the debris which struck Surtees narrowly missed his vehicle.

He said: "We all know life can be cruel and we read of young victims of tragedies every day, whether through accident, war or illness.

"But nothing can prepare someone for the loss of their own child and clearly John and Jane are absolutely distraught. We are all so desperately sorry."

The racing fraternity is a close knit group and team manager from Wrotham based British Touring Cars Championship team Airwaves BMW David Bartrum spoke of his sadness.

Having watched the accident happen it was clear from an early stage something was wrong but he was 'numbed' when he heard the teenager had died.

He said: "It is a terrible loss especially considering his father raced through the period before many changes made the sport safer.

"For it to happen in such a freak way is terribly cruel and even more so given that he was a talented lad in all aspects of his life.

"His dad will have experienced loss before in his career and there will be many well wishers but it is truly harrowing."

At the west Kingsdown venue on Monday morning the atmosphere was eerily quiet and many of the instructors at the venues race master courses - which teach novices how to negotiate the circuit - wanted to dwell on the terrible tragedy.

Professional racer Jamie Stanley, from Biggin Hill, who competed in another event on the day of the accident was taking enthusiasts around the course.

He said: "Henry was a friend, someone that I saw around here all the time and always said hello to.

"It was a freak accident and not something that I feel I can talk about, we went out before him and didn't really know much about it."

Motorbike racer Craig Jones died on the British leg of the World Supersport Championship at Brands Hatch last August.

He was challenging for the lead on his Honda machine when he came off and was hit in the head by a following rider.

Like Henry Surtees he was rushed to the Royal London Hospital by the Kent Air Ambulance with severe head injuries but was pronounced dead at 12.30am the following day.

A full investigation into the events on Sunday will be undertaken.

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