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With great sadness we have to advise Members that Martin Colvill died on Friday 4 March. He was 81 and had been suffering from Lymphoma, having been diagnosed in May last year. Martin became a Full Member of the BRDC in 1989 after success in the BRDC Group C2 Sports Car Championship, the forerunner of today’s British GT Championship. 

Martin will be probably best remembered as one of the founders, with the late Bobby Bell, of Lotus specialists Bell & Colvill based initially in West Horsley, Surrey. While qualifying to be a Chartered Accountant, Martin’s mechanical aptitude and enthusiasm for Lotus had resulted in him developing a profitable side line assembling Lotus cars at a time when these were supplied by the factory in kit form for DIY assembly, thereby quite legitimately avoiding purchase tax. According to Martin: ‘One skilled person with a hoist, a box of tools and a helper could build an Elan in an evening’. The Bell & Colvill partnership opened for business in 1970 and went from strength to strength. The emphasis was on enthusiasts’ cars and they became dealers for Alfa Romeo, Jensen, Maserati, Saab, Subaru and AC in addition to Lotus, becoming the longest continual dealership for Lotus and one of the UK’s largest Alfa dealerships.

As the business prospered so Martin was able to start racing. His first event was at Silverstone in August 1977 with his 7-litre  AC Cobra Mk 2. Sufficiently encouraged he embarked on a full season in the Historic Sports Car Club’s Classic Sports Car Championship, winning the class for front-engined cars over 3000 cc. At the same time Martin also ventured into more modern machinery by acquiring a Sports 2000 Lola T492. Continuing with the Cobra in the Classis Sports Car Championship in 1979, Martin had to give best to the late Amschel Rothschild’s Cobra Coupe but he was back in winning form in 1980, taking six class wins including one first overall and again winning his class in the Classic Sports Car Championship.

Martin then acquired, from the estate of Rodney Clarke of Connaught fame, an ex-JW Gulf Ford GT40 (#1084/P1004)1which he raced extensively both in the United Kingdom, Continental Europe and the USA. From 1982 to 1987 Martin and his GT40 became regular features of the major historic sports car races, the orange and blue car distinguishable by the roof blister devised to increase headroom for Martin’s height. The idea had been pioneered by the equally lofty Colin Crabbe whose GT40 (# 1021) had passed through Martin’s hands a few years earlier. The GT40 was joined in 1985 by a Lola-Chevrolet T222 Can-Am machine to enable Martin to run at the front of the David Piper/Mike Knight Super Sports races against the likes of Mike Wheatley’s BRMP154, John Foulston’s McLaren M8C/D and the March 707 of Ted Williams. A particular highlight was the support race for the 1986 Austrian Grand prix on the full strength Osterreichring which Martin won, setting fastest lap in the process.

In 1988 Martin shared one of the Ecosse Group C2 cars in the final round of the BRDC national Group C2 championship. With Ray Mallock as his co-driver Martin finished third and resolved to embark on a full season in the 1989 series. With Mike Wilds, Ray Mallock and John Brindley as alternating co-drivers Martin enjoyed a very successful season, starting with victory in a Thundersports race at Oulton Park although the Thundersports campaign ended after engine failure during qualifying for the second round at Brands Hatch. In the BRDC series Martin invariably finished second or third overall which brought him third in the Championship. These results enabled Martin to fulfil his ambition of becoming a BRDC Full Member.

No sooner had Martin paid his joining fee than he had near neighbour Ken Tyrrell knocking on his door encouraging him to become a Board member. The Club was about to plunge into the difficult period of the Silverstone Motor Group controversy which culminated in the BRDC having to sue its former Solicitors; Martin, with his business and accountancy experience, shouldered much of the responsibility for guiding his fellow Board members through the process to an ultimately successful outcome. In recognition of his tireless efforts Martin was deservedly awarded Life Membership. In addition to his other responsibilities Martin was a member of the Board’s remuneration and charity committees and was BRDC Company Secretary for many years. After leaving the Board in 2000, Martin maintained his long-standing involvement in the BRDC Golf and Clay Pigeon days in addition to regularly attending the Annual Awards and Members’ Track Days. It is no exaggeration to say that Martin truly represented all that is best in BRDC membership. To his wife Linda, a regular at BRDC events with Martin, the Club extends its most sincere condolences.  

There will be a private family funeral with a memorial at a later date.

The Club regrets to report on the death of Neville Hay, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1993
The Club regrets to report on the death of Alan Minshaw, who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1984
The Club regrets to report on the death of Ray Thackwell who was elected as a BRDC Member in 1957
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