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Wheldon family touched by tributes

18 October 2011


Dan Wheldon's parents have thanked the wider motorsport community for the concern it has shown following their son's fatal accident in the IndyCar season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday.

In a brief statement issued on Monday, the family described Wheldon as a 'true champion' and a 'gentleman on and off the track', adding to a series of tributes paid by the driver's IndyCar contemporaries and others from the likes of F1 champions Jenson Button, who raced against Wheldon from their karting days, and Lewis Hamilton.

"The family would like to thank everyone for their overwhelming outpouring of sympathy," Clive Wheldon said, "Daniel was born to be a racer and left us doing what he loved to do.

"He was a true champion and a gentleman on and off the track. Words cannot describe how much our family will miss him. He touched so many and the world is a better place because of Dan. He was a proud brother to Austen, Ashley, Elliott and Holly. He was a devoted son to Sue and myself and a loving husband to his wife."

Tributes continued to be paid to Wheldon throughout the day, as the IndyCar community came to terms with its loss.

"Panther [Racing] would like to send its deepest condolences and respects to family and friends of Dan Wheldon, and more specifically to his wife Susie and their children Sebastian and Oliver," the driver's first IndyCar employer wrote, "Dan is an IndyCar legend, a champion, a friend, and one of the greatest ambassadors in the history of open-wheel racing and the Indianapolis 500.

"Since making his IndyCar Series debut with Panther in 2002, and subsequently returning for the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Dan was an unbelievable representative of our team and partners. The passion and commitment that Dan showed to Soldiers of the National Guard, and Cadets in its Youth ChalleNGe program, and fans of this sport, is what set him apart. In our experience we cannot recall one instance where Dan said no to an autograph request, bypassed a photo request, or left an appearance without assuranceseverybody there who wanted to meet him had done so.

"He was a special talent, a better person, and had a positive impact in the lives of so many in the sport. While Dan's on-track success speaks for itself, it's the professionalism, humour and spirit he showed outside the racecar that set him a cut above the rest. He will be missed, but always remembered."

Conquest Racing also added its memories.

“I've known Dan since he first came to the USA and, like a lot of other people, I had a great connection with him," team owner Eric Bachelart commented, "Dan represented the true IndyCar driver spirit, always available and positive, he was a great talent, a great friend, and a great family man. I would like to send my deepest condolences to his family. It's hard to accept what happened yesterday, we all know it's a dangerous sport but we need to work together to make sure that this never happens again.”

Conquest driver Sebastian Saavedra agreed that the charismatic Briton would leave a huge hole in the paddock.

“We lost not only an amazing driver, we lost a great father, friend and a very honourable person," he noted, "It's very hard to believe this is possible and sometimes we forget how dangerous what we do is. But we will never forget how much he loved racing and the adrenaline this sport gave him. We will miss him incredibly for his unique smile, sense of being and how friendly he was to all, but we will never forget him in any sense of the word. May he rest in peace and may his family accept this great loss with cherish. We love you Dan.”

Colin Dyne, CEO of Wheldon's Indianapolis 500-winning sponsor William Rast thanked the 33-year old what he had given the company.

“As we struggle to process this devastating news, my heart and soul reach out to Dan's wife Susie, his two boys and the rest of his family," he said, "He was a true champion who had the unique quality of making everyone around him feel like a winner. Not only a hero, but also a great friend, we are honoured to have counted Dan as part of the William Rast family. We will surely miss our friend and never forget what he gave to all of us.”

Wheldon's management company admitted that it was 'deeply saddened by the tragic loss' of a friend and client.

"Dan was a winner," it claimed, "For the past eleven years, we were privileged to watch Dan become a champion on the track and a devoted family man off it. He loved the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and was immensely proud to have his name etched twice on the Borg Warner trophy alongside some of the Indy 500 greats.

"He touched so many people in racing and around the world with his warm smile, his charming personality and his genuine good nature. Dan loved his fans and always took that extra bit of time to take a photo, to sign an autograph, to make some young kid smile at the racetrack. Everyone wanted to be around Dan. His passion and his enthusiasm for life was infectious. We will all miss him...

A true champion of motorsport... A proud brother to Austin, Ashley, Elliott and Holly... A devoted son to Clive and Sue... A loving husband to Susie... A doting father to his boys, Sebastian and Oliver... And our friend... Rest in peace Dan...your memory will live with us forever."

Finally, former racer Bobby Rahal - whose son Graham raced against Wheldon in 2010-11 - paid tribute to a real racer.

"On Sunday, the Road Racing Drivers Club lost a fellow member, the racing community lost a brilliant talent and the Wheldon family lost a husband and father," the veteran campaigner wrote, "The last tragic loss is the only one that really matters. Our hearts are burdened with grief for Dan's family and we hope they feel the arms of their friends around them.

"Racing can be a bitter sport, but life in the racing community is so exhilarating that, year after year, incident after incident, drivers choose to race. Dan continued when others had troubles; his fellow RRDC members will as well, some even soon. Racing isn't heartless; those who participate know that there is no community more loving or more mutually supportive. Racing is a rewarding way of life that Dan and his fellow RRDC members chose, and loved, for very personal reasons.

"Dan Wheldon was our teammate, our competitor and our friend. The RRDC will do what we can to help his family, and we will always honour this lovely man. Then we will do what Dan would have done; we will go racing."

Details of a public memorial service in Indianapolis will be forthcoming from IndyCar in the next week, while GoDaddy.com has created a memorial website in Wheldon's honour. The Briton was rumoured to have agreed terms to replace NASCAR-bound Danica Patrick in the GoDaddy-sponsored Andretti Autosport car next season.

The memorial site, which includes a Facebook link to leave condolences and remembrances and a career photo retrospective, can be found at http://www.danwheldonmemorial.com/


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