Earlier on this year the motorsport world lost the legendary figure of Sir Stirling Moss OBE, described by many of his rivals as “the greatest driver never to win the F1 World Championship”.
Speaking with those who had gathered at the Easthampstead Park Crematorium it felt as if the powerboat racing community were paying their respect to his waterborne equivalent – Andy Elliott.
In his eulogy, Ken McCrorie spoke about his lifelong friendship with Andy, referring to him as the ‘Brother’ he never had.
The pair would be team-mates for several seasons including racing in the Formula Four class at the notorious Bristol Docks.
Later on, when McCrorie was on the verge of winning the UIM F3 World Championship, Andy was there to give him the advice he needed to secure the title, in fact it was Andy, a former F3 World Champion himself, who jumped into the cockpit to drive his victorious friend on their celebratory lap.
Also there to pay his respect was Pelle Brolin, who had flown in from Stockholm. The Swedish racer said that Elliott had a burning desire in powerboat racing that was just so infectious.
He spoke about the time they first met back in 1982 at the SE (F4) World Championships held in Hobro, Denmark.
“I arrived in the pits towing a boat I had borrowed from Christian Molgaard and the first person to greet me there was Andy. There was I, a mere rookie standing with the World Champion who was taking a genuine interest in me and what I was doing. Yes, you could have said that he was checking out the opposition, but I was no threat, in fact I crashed out and he comfortably won the title that year. Andy was always quick on water and even quicker to share advice and help, a real diamond.”
Dene Stallard, who was Brolin’s F1 team-mate remembers seeing Elliott racing in Exeter Docks, “He won as usual and partied as usual” said Stallard. “I thought this guy knows how to enjoy racing, so I tried to copy him, but I just didn’t have the stamina to keep up.”
Throughout most of Andy’s F1 racing career he ran a British built Burgess hull and to Dave Burgess he will always be a winner.
“It didn’t matter what Andy drove, he always raced it 100%” said Burgess. “He is a legend and his achievements will live on for many years. Away from racing he was a good friend, a pleasure to spend time with and should be remembered as the person who pioneered pizza without tomato sauce.”
Burgess hulls were also the choice of Jonathan Jones who spoke about the loss of a true friend. “The sport has lost a huge character” said the Welshman, who also said that Elliott was both incredibly talented and incredibly fair to race against.
To this day Jones is still amazed how Elliott kept racing with little or no budget.
“Andy was a true survivor; one thing is for sure and that was he knew how to set the boat up and make the most of his inferior equipment to then go out there and secure good result”. Jones said that Scott Gillman was a huge fan and would often give Andy his spare engine parts so he could get out on the water.
“Andy was so well liked and respected by those up and down the F1H2O pit lane.”
Brolin might have described Elliott as a diamond but only a few diamonds are perfect; most of them have inclusions or imperfections.
One man who worked tirelessly to help polish out these flaws was Gordon Sutherland who described him as ‘the life and soul of the powerboat party.’ Working with Andy for several race seasons Sutherland can recount many a tale including the time they were sat on the pontoon during ‘Free Practice’ at an F1 Grand Prix somewhere overseas.
“Andy had a huge box of propellers and he loved trying each one till we had gone through the entire box. He then said I’ve got the perfect prop for this course, so I asked him where it was, and he replied I’ve left it back in my house.”
Richard Wood is someone that also knew all about the ‘highs and lows’ of racing with Elliott, in fact ‘Woody’ brought his first race boat from him back in 1987.
“It was a T1 that Andy had raced and most of my early boats were ones he had competed in. If he wasn’t racing, he would come and help me out over the race weekend. So it was only fair that I went away and crewed for him. Perhaps the happiest time we had together was when Andy was racing in the F3 World Championship. One time we were driving to Sarnico in Northern Italy. Non-stop until we got to the Swiss Italian border, so you can imagine how we smelt by then. Andy pulled over by a river and we lathered up with a bar of soap and plunged into the ice-cold water to rinse off. It was only when we climbed back out that we saw a truck drivers shower block on the other side of the carpark. We had some real good laugh’s and went everywhere together even when we weren’t racing, he was just so very special”.
“There will never be another like him” said Keith Whittle. “A true friend, a fantastic racer who loved watching Sam, my son go racing. He would offer him advice about all aspects of racing. Such a great loss not only to our team but to the whole of powerboat racing.”
In this modern sporting age when honours are bestowed upon sportsmen and women perhaps if Elliott had ridden a bike to Olympic glory or won a tennis grand slam, then Sir Stirling Moss might not have been the only Knight of the Realm we said goodbye to this year.