On Tuesday 31 May 2016, five greats of the racing world were inducted into the Motor Sport Hall of Fame, at the Royal Automobile Club’s Woodcote Park country estate.
The public were given the chance to put forward their choices for the first time this year, and with over 25, 000 votes cast, the selected nominees were revealed as: Sid Watkins (Formula 1), Dan Gurney (US racing), Valentino Rossi (motorcycles), Sébastien Loeb (rally) and Derek Bell (sports cars).
The prestigious event began with a panel discussion hosted by TV presenter Jennie Gow, on ‘The Great Rivals’ with guest speakers such “Mr. Le Mans” Tom Kristensen, two-time Le Mans winner Darren Turner, former F1 driver and team owner Jackie Oliver, five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell, Isle of Man TT winner and Motor Sport writer Mat Oxley and Motor Sport magazine’s own editor, Damien Smith. The talk covered both the sport’s historic rivalries as well as those unique to the panel.
Following afternoon tea, demonstration runs of various cars and bikes could be enjoyed by guests, from the ex-Stirling Moss Jaguar C-type to an ex-John Surtees Honda, and an ex-Colin McRae Subaru Impreza. Despite the damp conditions the machines and their drivers still put on an enthralling show. As a tribute to his father Mike, David Hailwood rode one of Mike ‘The Bike’s’ Honda’s up the hill.
After the evenings demonstrations had concluded, it was time for a speech from Editor Smith. He was followed by Daphne McKinley Edwards, mother of the late Sean Edwards, who gave an emotional speech about the work done by The Sean Edwards Foundation in regards to motor sport safety.
From there proceedings moved on to the awards themselves, with the rallying category first to be announced. The nominees in this category included Hannu Mikkola, Sébastien Loeb and Richard Burns. It was nine-time WRC champion Loeb that won the award, which was presented by Paddy Hopkirk. In his peech, the Frenchman wexpressed howhe was touched at the thought of following in the footsteps of Nuvolari, Moss, Senna and Schumacher and paid thanks to those that got him started in motor sport.
The sports cars category was called next and Derek Bell was announced as the winner, with Tom Kristensen presenting the award on stage. Pedro Rodríguez and Brian Redman were the other nominees and Derek paid respect to those who chose sports car racing as a career over F1 in his acceptance of the honour.
Motorcycles were next on the agenda, and with a choice of Joey Dunlop, Valentino Rossi and Mike Hailwood, it really was a difficult one to call. The public chose the Italian Yamaha rider however, who could not be present at the awards ceremony, but sent a message from his Yamaha motorhome at the Spanish Grand Prix:
“Hi to everybody and I am very happy and very proud to enter into the Hall of Fame. It is a great shame that I cannot come over there with you, but I wanted to say thank you, thanks a lot. I am so happy – I will put the prize in my bedroom so we can sleep together!”
“Being with these important names of motor sport is fantastic. Thank you to everybody and I hope to see you next time.”
The awards continued on after a short break, with US racing the next category to be announced and three-time F1 world champion Jackie Stewart was there to present. Nominees AJ Foyt, Dan Gurney and Roger Penske were all in with a shout, but it was Gurney that took the honour’s in the end. Dan, could not attend the evening but sent a message of thanks:
“Motor Sport Magazine, the green one that I remember Jenks used to write… Well, certainly I am touched to be considered to be a part of this group listed on the trophy, people that I have looked up to all my life, some that I raced against. I appreciated the fans, if there was a vote and they voted me in I say ‘thank you very much!’ I am glad that I have managed to get in and I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.”
The F1 category was the final award of the evening to be presented, with Sid Watkins, Gilles Villeneuve and Cosworth (Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth) all with a chance of being initiated into the Hall of Fame. The late Sid Watkins was the resounding victor, and McLaren chairman Ron Dennis presented the award to winner Watkins’ wife and son. The McLaren CEO reminisced about how Sid had influenced his daughter’s career, before the awards night was brought to a close by Jennie Gow, the resounding applause indicating that everyone had thoroughly enjoyed the event.