George Best RIP
A little late (I've been away) but RIP to a very talented sportsman with a controversial lifestyle very typical of sporting megastars of his era (witness also James Hunt, F1 world champion). A man whose death was long expected – I could almost say deliciously anticipated, by some of the media – and has been publically mourned. This entry isn't about him.
You'll probably have missed it, what with all the front pages, back pages and souvenir pull-outs in the papers in the last couple of days, but Britain has lost another sporting hero far more tragically this weekend, and it happened with barely a trace of coverage. Richard Burns, the first and only Englishman to win the World Rally Championship, passed away over the weekend, aged 34.
Burns had become the youngest ever winner of the British Rally Championship in 1993 with Subaru and entered his first WRC rally in 1998 with Mitsubishi. He rejoined Subaru, coming second in the World Championship in 1999 and 2000, before winning the title at the final round of the 2001 season, the Rally of Great Britain. (I was there, in my first year at Warwick, marshalling on Special Stage 6 with the Motorsport club).
He joined Peugeot as World Champion but, despite not winning a rally with them in 2002 or 2003, was within 5 points of the championship leader going into the final round, Rally GB, of the 2003 season. Driving himself to Cardiff in his road car a couple of days before the rally started, Burns passed out. After extensive tests, he was diagnosed with a form of brain tumour and prevented from competing again. Months of radiotherapy and chemotherapy looked to have helped him make a partial recovery, but his condition deteriorated again and even brain surgery earlier this year could not save him.
Family and competitors' tributes have spoken of a very gifted and intelligent competitive driver, a sharp wit and a man whose attitude in coping with a terrible illness was inspirational. May he rest in peace.
Richard Burns, 1971 - 2005