Brands Hatch salute to victims

PUBLISHED: 16:12 02 April 2008 | UPDATED: 11:37 12 August 2010

LE MANS DRIVER: Richard Lloyd.

LE MANS DRIVER: Richard Lloyd.

A RACING track boss described the death of his friend in an air crash as a cruel blow . Head of Brands Hatch, MotorSport Vision chief executive

A RACING track boss described the death of his friend in an air crash as a "cruel blow".

Head of Brands Hatch, MotorSport Vision chief executive Jonathan Palmer paid tribute to Richard Lloyd who died on Sunday after a twin-engine private jet they were travelling crashed into a house in Farnborough, killing all five on board.

Mr Lloyd, an ex-racing car driver and head of Apex Motorsport, was flying with former British Touring Car Championship race winner David Leslie when their Cessna Citation 501 jet got into difficulties shortly after leaving Biggin Hill Airport.

The pair were heading to the French circuit Nogaro where Leslie was due to test Apex's Jaguar XKR for the FIAGT3 European Championship.

Christopher Allarton, 25, was also on-board and had only been with Apex for one week, landing his "dream" job after finishing an engineering degree at Coventry University.

Experienced pilot Mike Roberts, 63, and co-pilot Michael Chapman, 57, also perished.

Mr Palmer said: "I am desperately saddened to learn that my friend Richard lost his life in the Biggin Hill jet accident.

"I had known Richard closely for over 25 years and he was one of the most important people in the development of my racing career and successes as a racing driver.

"His passion for motor racing was remarkable but, more than that, he never stopped working to realise the dreams of success, most recently taking Jaguar into GT racing with XKR, a project that was the subject of my last conversation with him."

Mr Palmer said his friend Richard still loved to drive and added: "I only recently saw him for a chat at Brands Hatch when he had been testing his old Chevrolet Camaro, a car that I remembered being in awe of when he was campaigning it in the BTCC in the late seventies.

"His death is such a cruel blow. He leaves a wonderful and supportive wife, Philippa, and his daughters.

"It seems so sad too when Richard was enjoying his time so much, mixing team management with historic driving and helping the BRDC."

Tributes for the passengers also came from Damon Hill, ex-Formula One World Champion who described Mr Leslie and Mr Lloyd as "lovely guys" adding: "I knew them both and I raced for Richard at Le Mans. They were both lovely guys. You wouldn't find anything bad to say about them."

Mr Palmer described their proudest moment when they took second place in the legendary and gruelling Le Mans 24-hour race: "The driver line up was me, James Weaver and Richard 'Le Patron' Lloyd.

"After an epic battle for the lead with the Joest Porsche driven by Stefan Johansen that lasted until midnight.

"Richard appropriately took the car across the line for the final stint. It was surely his finest hour as a driver and manager of his own racing team."

Mr Palmer said their biggest and sweetest success was winning the Brands Hatch 1000km World Endurance race in 1984.

He added: "When we were striving to make it to the big time with the Canon Porsche 956, Richard used to always wear a prized baseball cap. It carried the slogan 'Pursuit of Perfection'. That says it all.

"My sincere condolences go to the families of David Leslie and the other victims."

Families of the victims went to the site of the accident in Romsey Close, Orpington, to pay their respects on Tuesday.

Graeme Allarton, the 20-year-old brother to Christopher, said: "I would like to thank all the community and the emergency services for the support they have shown.

"We would like to send our feelings to the other people involved and their families.

"This was a terrible tragedy, a horrible thing to happen to anybody. We would like people to remember all the people here and know that everyone was dearly loved especially my brother Christopher."

Biggin Hill Terminal Manager, John Dugdale, laid a wreath at the scene and paid tribute to pilot Mike Roberts.

He said: "Everyone at the airport knew Mike very well.

"He was a real gentleman, a lot of people say that about people but he really way. What he didn't know about flying nobody did."

Mr Dugdale said the mood at Biggin Hill airport was "sombre" and that a memorial will take place in the chapel in the near future.

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