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Motorsport's Obituary: Remembering the heroes we lost in 2022

Written by Emily Sands, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

In 2022, we lost a lot of our heroes within motorsport. This article is a homage to their lives, as we will continue to cherish their legacies and inspiration.

Patrick Tambay, June 25, 1949 - December 4, 2022

Image Credits - Bob Thomas/Popperfoto

Many will know Patrick Tambay as the French Formula 1 driver who helped Ferrari win two Constructors Championships in 1982 and 1983. During his F1 career, Tambay got two wins, 11 podiums, and five pole positions. Tambay was invited to drive for Ferrari following the death of Gilles Villeneuve at Zolder in 1982, in an accident that profoundly shocked the motor racing world.

After moving on from Formula 1, he competed in ice races and jet-ski competitions, and got a taste of the Paris-Dakar rally, in which he finished third. He also competed at Le Mans in 1989, finishing fourth in a Jaguar.

When his racing career came to an end, Tambay became a commentator for the RMC Sport channel, whilst also serving as the mayor of Le Cannet, in France. Unfortunately, his later years were affected by the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

To carry on the Tambay legacy, he is survived by his sons, Adrien and Loic, the former a racing driver; and by a daughter, Esti.

Coy Gibbs, December 9, 1972 - 6 November 2022

(Coy Gibbs Left) Image Credits - Meg Oliphant

Coy Gibbs was a former NASCAR driver, and was an assistant coach at NFL’s Washington Commanders. Gibbs made his NASCAR debut in the Truck Series in 2000, sharing the driving duties of the #18 Chevrolet with his brother, J.D., who died in 2019 from complications, following a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease.

Gibbs began racing full-time in the Truck Series in 2001, netting two top-five finishes, and finishing 10th in the series standings the following year. In 2003, he replaced Mike McLaughlin in what is now the Xfinity Series, with two top-10 finishes.

In 2008, Gibbs founded the JGRMX team, and in 2016, he gained his current role of vice chairman and COO, overseeing the organisation’s NASCAR programs.

Coy and his wife, Heather, have four children – Ty, Case, Jett, and Elle. Ty Gibbs is now a driver himself. He competes full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series, driving the No. 54 Toyota.

Mauro Forghieri, 13 January 1935 - 2 November 2022

(Mauro Forghieri right, Pictured with Niki Lauda) Image Credits - Bernard Cahier

Mauro Forghieri was the last man capable of designing a complete world championship-winning Formula One car, from its chassis and suspension to the engine and gearbox. Forghieri spent two decades as the technical director of Scuderia Ferrari, Ferrari’s racing division, Forghieri was responsible for the cars that took John Surtees, Niki Lauda, and Jody Scheckter to world titles. Overall, his Ferrari cars won four Drivers’ Championships, seven constructors’ titles, and 54 Grands-Prix.

Towards the end of his career, Forghieri's plans for a wind tunnel, and conversations with the Swiss engineer Michael May, led him to introduce wings over the rear quarters of his Grand Prix cars, thereby creating downforce and increasing the grip of the rear wheels. His innovation led to the further development and universal adoption of such aerodynamic devices in F1 and elsewhere.

Olivier Lavorel - 25 October, 2022 and Cesar Chanal - June 5, 2022

Image Credit: Steve Babb

Olivier Lavorel and César Chanal were both involved in a crash in the first sidecar race of the event, which killed driver Chanal at the scene. The accident occurred at Ago’s Leap, just under one mile into the course. There was a mix up of names from the TT race officials, suggesting Olivier had passed away at the scene of the incident, but they later corrected their statement to confirm it was driver César Chanal who passed.

Olivier was left hospitalised with serious injuries, but passed away in late October. Olivier and César were both newcomers at the Isle of Man TT Races, and had taken numerous victories and podiums in the French F1 and F2 National Sidecar Championships.

Olivier was the sixth person to have died during the Isle of Man TT 2022.

Dietrich Mateschitz - 20 May 1944 - 22 October 2022

Image Credit - Mark Thompson

Dietrich Mateschitz was the co-owner of Red Bull. He passed away at the age of 78, after battling a long-term illness. Mateschitz, an Austrian billionaire, was an integral figure in Red Bull’s involvement within Formula One. He founded the energy drinks company in 1984, and bought the Jaguar F1 team 20 years later, renaming it Red Bull Racing the following season.

His death was announced to Red Bull staff before qualifying for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of Americas in Austin. That weekend, Red Bull Racing paid tribute to Mateschitz all weekend, by playing his favourite band ‘The Rolling Stones’ loudly from their garage.

Victor Steeman - 15 June 2000 - 11 October 2022

Image Credits - Mirco Lazzari

Aged 22, Steeman was enjoying a superb 2022 FIM Supersport 300 Championship campaign, and came into the Pirelli Portuguese Round with a mathematical chance of clinching the World Championship. He had taken four wins, five podiums and three pole positions to his name across the season. Steeman took 12 points finishes from 14 races. He also signed his name in the history books, with pole position at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, becoming the rider with the most pole positions in the World Supersport 300 class.

Steeman was involved in a multi-rider incident at Turn 14, with the race immediately red flagged. Medical personnel and emergency vehicles arrived at the site immediately, and the rider was attended to trackside, and at the circuit’s medical centre, before being transferred by helicopter to Faro Hospital. Sadly, Victor passed away, following his injuries.

Bobby East - December 17, 1984 - July 13, 2022

(Bobby East Left) Image Credits - Joe Robbins

Bobby East was a United States Auto Club legend, winner of three national championships in the Silver Crown and Midget divisions, and also had experience in NASCAR. Sadly, he passed away on Tuesday, 13th July, in a stabbing attack in Westminster, California. He was 37.

Between 2005 and 2008, East began dabbling in NASCAR as a development driver for Ford, by making starts in what are now the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series. In 2006, he ran nearly the entire Truck Series schedule for Wood Brothers/JTG Racing, serving as a team-mate to Supercars Championship star Marcos Ambrose. East finished 23rd in the standings, with a best run of eleventh at Indianapolis Raceway Park (IRP). Two years later, he did seven races for Roush Fenway Racing (now RFK Racing), scoring his lone pole at IRP and a pair of top tens at Texas and Memphis.

Roger & Bradley Stockton - June 11, 2022

(Bradley Left & Robert Right) Image Credits - RC Photos

Father and son, Robert and Bradey Stockton, died in a crash, racing at the Isle of Man TT. The Stockton’s were killed during the second lap of the second sidecar race. The motorcycle racing team they rode for announced a shut down, following the tragedies.

Bradley, 21, was a newcomer to the event, while his father last competed at the TT in 2017. It served as another reminder of the dangerous nature of the Isle of Man TT motor racing event.

Davy Morgan - 1971 - June 6, 2022

Credit: Steve Babb

Davy Morgan, 52, was killed in an incident on the third and final lap of the first Supersport Race of the 2022 races. Davy was a highly experienced TT competitor, having competed in every TT since his debut in the 2002 Production 600 Race. The Supersport race he competed in was his 80th start at the TT.

Davy’s TT career included a seventh place in the 2006 Senior TT, and a career-best fifth place in the 2008 Lightweight TT. Davy had recorded 49 finishes, including 25 top-twenty results, and his previous performances had earned him 14 Silver Replicas and 30 Bronze Replicas. His best lap around the TT Mountain Course was at an average speed of 201.1 kmh (125 mph), set in the 2010 Senior TT.

Davy was the third rider to have died at this year's TT.

Mark Purslow, 1992 - 1st June, 2022

Image Credits - Mark Purslow, Twitter

Welsh rider Mark Purslow died following an accident during qualifying for the 2022 Isle of Man TT races. Purslow took part in the 2017 edition of the TT Races, having previously contested the supersport and lightweight events.

Mark had graduated from the Manx Grand Prix, having won the 2015 lightweight race on his debut, and he had also competed at the Classic TT, securing a best finish of 14th in the 2019 Junior Classic TT.

Daniel ‘Danny’ Ongais, 21 May 1942 - 26 February 2022

Image Credits - Alvis Upitis

Ongais was nicknamed “Danny On-Gas” and the “Flyin’ Hawaiian” for his bravery and commitment in the Indy cars of the late ’70s . Ongais was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2000, in the Drag Racing category.

In the late 1970’s, Ongais teamed up with media mogul, Ted Field. They found success in Formula 5000 and the IndyCar Series. He also competed in four Formula 1 races in 1977 and 1978, including two starts with Interscope, with a best finish of seventh in the 1977 Canadian Grand Prix.

Ongais was known not only for his mighty speed, but also for surviving some violent crashes. At the age of 54, Ongais was an unlikely call-up to replace Team Menard’s Indy 500 pole sitter Scott Brayton, who had perished in a crash in a post-qualifying practice session. Despite having to start from 33rd and last, and having retired from IndyCar competition nine years earlier, Ongais drove his way to a spirited seventh.

William Bruce Gordon Johnstone, 30 January 1937 - 3 March 2022.

Image Credits - Tony Brooks

William Bruce Gordon Johnstone was a South African racing driver. Johnstone started out with a Volvo PV544 in local events in the African country. He even had a small official career in Formula 1, competing in only a single Grand Prix. Bruce joined the BRM F1 team in 1962 for his home race in South Africa, one where he finished ninth.

However, Johnstone took part in several non-championship races. Notably, his first F1 outing was in the 2nd 1960 South African GP in a Copper T43. Bruce stopped racing at the age of 25 to focus on business activities. He passed away at the age of 89 on March 3, 2022.

Victor Henry ‘Vic’ Elford, 10 June 1935 - 13 March 2022.

Victor Henry Elford was born on June 10, 1935, and was a British racing driver. Elford competed in several forms of racing, including Formula 1, rallying, and even sportscars. During the rallying days, Henry was given the nickname, ‘Quick Vic’ following his outstanding performances for Porsche.

Elford passed away on March 13, 2022, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Vic was 86 years old.

Kunimitsu Takahashi, 29 January 1940 - 16 March 2022.

Takahashi was an important figure for Japanese riders in Grand Prix motorcycle racing, before embarking on a successful career on four wheels that took him to victories in single-seaters, sports prototypes, and touring cars. On four wheels, he also came to be known as the “Father of Drifting”.

After a life-threatening crash in the Isle of Man TT in 1962, Takahashi decided to turn his attention to car racing in 1965. Joining Nissan, he contributed to the success of cars like the R380 prototype and Skyline 2000 GT-R touring car, during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

In 2018, Formula 1 champion Jenson Button joined Team Kunimitsu, to partner Naoki Yamamoto. The pair prevailed in a tense showdown and gave Honda their first SUPER GT title since 2010. Yamamoto would lead Kunimitsu to a second title in three years in 2020, this time with Tadasuke Makino as his teammate, following Button’s departure at the end of 2019.

That year, Takahashi was also honoured by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, Sports, and Technology for his achievements and his outstanding contribution to the promotion of sports in Japan.

Reine Wisell, 30 September 1941 - 20 March 2022.

Image Credits - Alvis Upitis

Reine Wisell was a former racing driver from Sweden. He participated in 23 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, debuting on 4 October 1970. He achieved one podium, and scored a total of 13 championship points. He also participated in several non-Championship Formula One races.

He won the Swedish Formula 3 Championship in 1967, and three years later, made the big step up to sign for Team Lotus. In 1970, Reine continued in sportscars, co-driving a Scuderia Filipinetti Ferrari 512S with Jo Bonnier at Le Mans.

In 1975 he was a co-driver with Hartwig Batrams in a Porsche 911 Carrera RSR in the European GT Championship, and drove a Group 2 Chevrolet Camaro in European saloon car racing, plus a Camaro in the Swedish SuperStar series, from 1976 to 1979.

In 1985, there was a return to sportscars when he took part in the SuperSports series for historic sports cars in a Chevron. Reine continued to appear at historic racing events, and also taught advanced driving techniques.

Charles Anthony Standish ‘Tony’ Brooks, 25 February 1932 - 3 May 2022.

Tony Brooks, the last surviving Formula 1 race winner from the 1950’s, passed away at the age of 90. Brooks was known as the ‘The Racing Dentist’, having famously studied dentistry at the University of Manchester, at the beginning of his racing career – Brooks then qualified as a dentist in 1956.

Brooks won six Grands-Prix, including his joint win at the 1957 British Grand Prix at Aintree. He made his debut for BRM at the 1956 British Grand Prix, going on to drive for Vanwall in 1957 and 1958, before being picked by Enzo Ferrari to race for his famous team – with Brooks coming close to winning the world title in 1959.

Brooks raced on until 1961 before he left the sport, to focus on business interests. Formula 1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali in a statement said: “I was saddened to hear the news that Tony Brooks has died. He was part of a special group of drivers who were pioneers and pushed the boundaries at a time of great risk. He will be missed and our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Philippe Streiff, 26 June 1955 - 23 December 2022.

Credit: Getty Images

After finishing F3, Streiff stepped up to the European F2 championship for 1982, claiming his first podium finish in 1983. 1984 proved to be a breakthrough year for him, following a switch to the AGS team in European F2. A maiden victory at Brands Hatch convinced the Renault F1 team of his talent, and he made his debut for the French manufacturer in the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Streiff raced for Tyrrell from 1986, having made an outing for the team at the 1985 South African Grand Prix. Streiff would not race at all in the next season, having suffered a terrible accident in pre-season testing at Jacarepagua in Brazil, which resulted in the roll hoop of his car breaking. The crash left him as a quadriplegic, and in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

In his later life, Streiff did much to raise awareness of disability issues and improve road safety, until he passed away on 23rd December, 2022.

Chrissy Rouse, 10 October 1995 - 6th October 2022.

During the third race of the final round of the British Superbike Championship, Chrissy Rouse crashed on the first lap and was hit by a rider soon after, sustaining life threatening head injuries.

The 26-year-old rider succumbed to his injuries, and passed away peacefully, in the company of his family on the 6th of December. Rouse's death was announced on the same day British motorcycle racing also lost its most successful racer ever, Phil Read MBE.

Phil Read MBE, 1 January 1939 - 6 October 2022.

Credit: Don Morley

Phil Read was one of the fastest, and bravest motorcycle racers of all time. Read was the first rider to win the junior, intermediate, and senior world championships – an achievement only matched by Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez.

He won eight world titles (two 500cc, four 250cc, one 125cc, and a TT F1 crown on the Isle of Man), scored 52 GP victories, between 1961 and 1975, and won eight TTs. Read retired at the end of 1982 to spend more time on his business interests, and take part in classic racing events.

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08. Jan. 2023

Throwing in a shout out for the amazing Simon Diffey, one of the greats of the historic racing world... lost in a tragic road accident with an ambulance on a live call whilst out in his Bugatti. A great bloke in and out of the car who will be missed by historic/UK racing fans and rivals for a long time to come.

Would also add Simon Arron. Fantastic journalist and keen photographer- would happily flit between covering a GP and a different club meeting on each weekend day here in the UK. Easy to spot and talk to and to those who knew him a real fans journalist, wrote most articles as if he was standing pressed up to a…

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