David Sutton 1940 - 2021

We have learnt that sadly, David Sutton has passed away. The legendary entrepreneur, entrant and top-class car preparer will forever be associated with building winning rally cars, and creating World Champions. David's passing will see a huge part of classic motorsport history disappear.

In October 2019 David was a valued guest at the Lombard RAC retro rally dinner at the Celtic Manor Hotel, also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the International Rally Drivers Club of which, David was once a prominent member, particularly in the 1970s and 80s.

David began rallying driving Ford Lotus Cortinas and Escorts, but it was running Finns in Fords that Sutton really found his forte. Based out of a garage in Acton, that Anglo-Finnish alliance first hit the headlines with Timo Mäkinen on the 1968 RAC. He then ran an Escort Mk I TC loaned from Ford's official Boreham team and the original flying Finn led the event before the car's head gasket let go in the Scottish Borders.

Always close to Boreham, David helped steer Ford's motorsport department through a difficult period when a militant factory strike in 1978 affected car production and Boreham was unable to get workers into the plant to build RS1800s for the RAC Rally. There was genuine concern that the Escort's six-year domination of Britain's WRC round would come to an end.

David Sutton Cars to the rescue, using parts and people smuggled out of Boreham's back door and across to DSC, where he built six Escort MkIIs for that year's rally, including the car of eventual winner Hannu Mikkola - the iconic blue Eaton Yale-liveried car. Sutton's generous - and astute - gesture wasn't forgotten by then Ford director of motorsport, Peter Ashcroft when, a year later, Ford announced it wouldn't continue in rallying, so Ashcroft handed cars and contracted drivers over to Sutton to run a quasi-works team 1980/81.

With Rothmans' funding brokered by David Richards, the team enjoyed its finest hours and a year on from the British title, Vatanen won the 1981 drivers' title with Richards after victories on the Acropolis, Brazil and at home in Finland. But at the end of that year DSC faced a real dilemma, having been offered the opportunity by Audi UK to run Quattros', involving his great friend Hannu Mikkola. But that meant turning his back on Ford and any further serious WRC aspirations. In the end, he looked to the future and enjoyed more successes with Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist and Michèle Mouton in the British Championship and around the world.

Then Audi's departure from the rally scene in 1986 hit DSC really hard, as he'd just moved into larger Daventry premises, where he simply opened a Volkswagen-Audi dealership and survived. While the Sutton name might have faded from the pinnacle of the sport, his final act on the world stage was running Group N cars for various drivers including Stig Blomqvist and, a second world title when Martin Rowe drove a Group N Subaru Impreza to the 2003 Production Car world title.

The David Sutton story was always a tale of David V Goliath and - usually - he came out on top! The IRDC extends its sincere condolences to David's family and many friends around the world.

10th April, 2021