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Old 26 Nov 2009, 22:12 (Ref:2589918)   #1
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John Britten RIP

Mods - please move to Tributes at the appropriate time.

Sad new that John Britten has died. This has been posted by Jonathan Palmer on Motor Sport Vision News.

John Britten 1931 - 2009
Jonathan Palmer pays tribute

It is with great sadness that I report that John Britten passed away peacefully at his Surrey home yesterday, 24 November 2009, after a long illness.

MotorSport Vision was created by me, John Britten and Sir Peter Ogden in 2004 with the purchase of the Brands Hatch group of circuits from the US conglomerate, Interpublic, through their Octagon Motorsports company. John was a non-executive director of MSV and was a shareholder in the business until he relinquished his directorship owing to failing health and sold his shares to Peter and me in 2007.

From the outset John, a passionate motorsport enthusiast, played a very active role in turning the circuits' business round from its major loss-making history. He was a great businessman from whom I learnt a huge amount. John was a fearsome negotiator, which was much to our advantage with the acquisition of the Brands Hatch circuits group, and treated business in a completely dispassionate way, yet with total integrity. Absolutely correctly, John was always focussed on the prime objective of business being to make a profit, and the discipline of achieving that was important in turning MSV round so quickly. As those involved in the department will know, John was particularly astute at marketing, and many of the lessons he taught me have rung in my ears ever since.

John Britten had a great track record in business. In 1971 he founded the Tecno and Fox Talbot chain of camera shops which was sold to Jessops in 1998. Recognising the potential of the burgeoning computer business, John launched the Morse Computer group in 1983 and became Sun Microsystem's first and largest distributor selling their mid range Unix products. Morse exemplified John's talent for marketing with a great name, vivid logo and audacious front page advertising in the Times. It worked and when the time was right John sold out in 1995.

John was passionate though about motor racing and cars in general. After graduating from Cambridge as an engineer, in 1963 he set up a sportscar garage business with franchises for MG, Morgan and TVR. In 1970, he designed and launched the Arkley SS kit car, based on the MG Midget, selling many hundreds. Again marketing ingenuity played a part with his creative and amusing advertising campaigns. John used to race sportscars himself and was a full member of the BRDC.

Through sportscar racing and the London crowd, John became a good friend of Richard Lloyd, who was an accomplished racer in the British Touring Car Championship, famous for his Camaros and then Volkswagen Audi product. Richard's business was GTi Engineering, which specialised in tuning the seminal hot hatch, the Golf GTi in the early eighties. When Richard moved into international sportscar racing with the famous Canon Porsche 956 that I drove, John became involved in the team, initially with some sponsorship from Tecno, and then as a joint owner with Richard Lloyd.

Throughout most of this time I was driving for the team, and we had some great successes including finishing second at Le Mans in 1985 and winning the Brands Hatch and Norising 1000km races in the World Endurance championship in 1984 and 1987 respectively. Of course, John was involved in every aspect of the team including the engineering, and the family atmosphere was wonderful - including a few spats! - as we raced around the world. Flying was another passion of John's and we would often visit events in his Beech Baron airplane, whilst his wife Diana is a former aerobatic champion and still flies.

During the early nineties I was building my PalmerSport corporate motorsport business and Morse was inevitably a customer in our early Bruntingthorpe days. Lisa and I will never forget just how particular John was - he even insisted on bringing his own caterers up from London to Leicestershire until he had confidence in our own!

By the mid nineties I was determined to find my own venue to replace the day-rented Bruntingthorpe, and by 1999 had secured the Thurleigh site, obtained planning permission and had all the designs finalised. All I needed was the money to build it! My bank was only prepared to fund half the money with the security I could provide, but thankfully John and Peter Ogden believed in the project enough to guarantee the other half and Bedford Autodrome was born.

The PalmerSport event programme flourished and when the Brands Hatch group of circuits came on the market John and Peter both supported my eagerness to acquire the business. We created MSV with cash investment from John and Peter and a revised shareholding structure. A great deal of hard work went into the negotiations and acquisition of the group but by December 28 2003 contracts were finally signed and the exciting work of revitalising the circuits began.

John contributed enormously to all of this despite the burden of coping with myeloma, a bone marrow cancer that damages bone and reduces the strength of the immune system. When diagnosed in 1994, John was told he was likely to live just another four years. With typical determination and pragmatism, John organised the best treatment he could find and with regular chemotherapy continued a very active life until fatigue began to increase two years ago.

John Britten was a quite remarkable man who played a major part in my business life particularly, but also motor racing. A very dear friend, I will always be hugely appreciative of his support and shall miss him greatly. My sympathies are with John's wife Diana and daughters Sophie, Chloe and Fleur who will rightfully be extremely proud of their father.

Jonathan Palmer
25 November 2009
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