As tributes continue to flood in for British driver Dan Wheldon, I suspect many of you are only now learning what a great ambassador he was for the sport. I never met Dan, but like many enthusiasts I enjoyed watching his rise to fame in IndyCar racing and the irrepressible spirit he showed when he sniffed the opportunity of a race win.

Many people, far more knowledgeable than I, have written some moving tributes to the driver, father, husband and friend who passed away in the 15-car pileup at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last night. Rather than add to these, I thought I’d share links to some of my favourites, together with a statement from BRDC President, Derek Warwick, which was released a short time ago.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those Dan left behind, his wife Susie and their two children, Sebastian (aged 2) and Oliver, born in March this year. Motor racing can be such a cruel sport, especially on those who sacrifice the most.

Many newspaper articles this morning have been reflecting on the fact that motorsport is dangerous and whilst there are always improvements to be made to both the cars and tracks, perhaps it would be more fitting to remind ourselves at this moment of the more empowering truth, that life is precious.

A very touching tribute to a champion. INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard announces the passing of Dan Wheldon and drivers take to the track with a five-lap tribute.

A statement by the President of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), Derek Warwick

Dan Wheldon: 22 June 1978 – 16 October 2011.

On behalf of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), I wish to extend my sincere sympathies to Dan’s wife Susie and their boys Sebastian and Oliver, as well as the rest of his family and his team following the tragic news of his death in a racing accident yesterday at Las Vegas in the final Indy Car Series round of the year.

The BRDC is extremely proud of Dan and all that he achieved and was achieving in the United States. He was undoubtedly one of the great talents of his generation as his racing results testified. Two victories in the Indy 500 put him in a very select group of drivers and having won the Rookie of the Year honours in 2003 it was no surprise that he should win the Indy Car Championship in 2005. Dan followed this in 2006 by winning the BRDC Gold Star, beating the likes of Jenson Button, Mark Webber, David Coulthard and Dario Franchitti to this coveted award.

Dan was a true professional and a great ambassador for the sport. He was highly focused in the way he approached his racing and a real perfectionist. He pushed himself, and those he worked with, hard to produce results that were worthy of his talents and that fed his insatiable hunger to win. With his film-star good looks and athletic prowess, it was no wonder that the American public took him to their hearts.

In the BRDC we will remember Dan as a great racing driver who was very much involved with the Club and our circuit at Silverstone during the formative years of his career. Dan was, for many years, part of the BRDC ‘Rising Stars’ young driver programme. So proud of this recognition was he, that even after qualifying to be a Full Member of the BRDC he chose to remain a Rising Star, as he felt it represented what he was and helped the Indy Car world understand where he was set on going; to the very top. As a young driver Dan was also a finalist in the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award on two occasions, which was proof, if it was needed, that great things lay ahead of him.

When Dan did eventually become a Full Member of the BRDC he commented at the time, “To be included in a group of such great names makes me feel very special. I will do everything that I can to represent the BRDC in a way that makes you all very proud.”

Dan Wheldon was a great ambassador for the BRDC and motor sport generally. He will be hugely missed.

Derek Warwick
British Racing Drivers’ Club

Recommended Links

There have been many moving reflections and tributes published this morning, here are just a few of the ones which struck a chord with my own thoughts: