In memory of my great friend Des O'Dell

I must pay tribute to the memory of my great friend Des O'Dell, who sadly passed away earlier today after a brave battle against cancer.

Having started out in the great days of motoring with Aston Martin, Des enjoyed an exceptional career as competitions manager for Rootes, Chrysler, Talbot and Peugeot. Des led his teams to considerable success on the international stage and was personally responsible for helping kick-start the careers of such great names as Henri Toivonen, Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Jonny Milner to name but a few.

My respects and condolences to Des's family. He is already sadly missed.

Andy Walters - 15th March 1999

Des O'Dell
Des O'Dell
1927 - 15 March 1999

"Some people think I'm a pain, while others think I'm wonderful. I don't know how I'd prefer to be remembered, but I think I managed to get a bit done."

The following collection of remeniscences and tributes is presented in appreciation and celebration of Des O'Dell's remarkable career in motorsport.
DesODell.com is a strictly non-profit making web-based exhibition. My thanks to those who have taken the time to contribute. If you have any items worthy of inclusion and would like to see them displayed here, please send them to the address at the foot of the page. Thank you.

If you knew Des, then you would know how he cherished the memory of his team's triumphant victory on the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon. Follow it again here, immortalised by Keith Oswin in one of the excellent series of 'RACE OF MY LIFE' interviews, featuring personal remeniscences by major names in motorsport. This was published on page 51 of Autosport, June 20 1991.

Cowan / Malkin / Coyle
London-Sydney Marathon, Nov 24 - Dec 17, 1968
Hillman Hunter

There were many issues at stake when I tried to get the London-Sydney entry off the ground, especially as no-one took the competition department too seriously.

The event would eventually cost £32,000, so I knew that proper pre-event planning would be essential. I still have the service schedules we devised. They were probably unheard of in those days, but when everyone was tired, I wanted to make sure that we all knew what spares were available at each point and who was responsible for each task.

The company was not sure that we could do well, but I believed otherwise. In fact I guaranteed we would finish in the top three!

Ford was supposed to be the biggest threat, but we had already seen that halfshafts and axles were its weak point. The organisation wasn't too good either. So we had to plan everything carefully.

It was obvious that there would be times when we wouldn't see the cars for 300 to 1000 miles, so everything had to be designed for reliability and ease of service.

We actually ran two cars, one for some RAF lads and one for Andrew Cowan. But I made it absolutely clear in the schedule that Cowan's car was the number one priority and whatever was being done to the RAF Hunter, when Cowan came in everything had to switch to him. There was to be no argument over this issue.

We were the only car running on Shell and that caused a problem as we couldn't get the right octane fuel on the route. The next 100 cars were all with different oil companies, so they helped us out with 100 octane fuel.

Cowan only recced as far as Bombay, which was a worry. It was impossible to do more because of the money and the political arguments in the company which nearly stopped us going at all.

He took a questionnaire with him so that we knew what to expect and the problems that we might have to overcome. Wynn Mitchell devised the questions so that we could link with the engineering department afterwards.

I got my way on most things, but not on one. I wanted to put Colin Malkin in an Imp and let him race to Bombay. It wouldn't go any further, but I knew that, with a long trip from Bombay to Australia, people would be talking for some time about the leader at Bombay, so I wanted to make sure that we got all the publicity.

Anyway, everything went well and despite our fears, Cowan (with Malkin and Brian Coyle as his other two drivers in the car, three up to keep everyone awake during the 200-mile stage across Europe) reached Australia.

The event crossed the mountains and reached Broken Hill, about 100 miles from Sydney. We had our first wash and decent food for four days and then went to the final control to wait for the crews to come out of the stage.

Three mechanics from Chrysler Australia were there, one of which was an aborigine with the nickname 'Singlet'. He was dying to see a rally car and got really excited about this.

Lucien Bianchi was first out of the stage and was clearly the winner. He stopped and I congratulated him on the win. Cowan was going to be out next as Simo Lampinen (who had been second) had crashed so we were second.

Bianchi got into the passenger seat to sleep on the run back to Sydney, leaving Jean Ogier at the wheel.

As he drove off, 'Singlet' asked if I wanted him to stop Bianchi winning. After such a long event, we were all tired and I did not quite realise what he was saying. Eventually I pointed out that, yes, I would love Cowan to win but there was now no opportunity, the event was effectively over.

"Have you ever heard of pointing the bones?" he asked. With that he pointed his fingers together and, as the Citroën drove away, muttered something in aborigine. Ten miles up the road, the car was hit by a Mini driven by two off-duty policemen. Bianchi had to be cut out of the wreckage and, because of that, Cowan went on to win...

We were all heroes afterwards. Mike Kranefuss from Ford said that they had got all the right ingredients for their team bar the one that mattered. Des O'Dell! My salary was doubled as I stepped off the plane but, 10 months later, the department was closed down and we were all out of a job.

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Peugeot Sport
Press release issued by Des's successor Mick Linford of Peugeot Sport, posted on Peugeot Sport UK website on March 17 1999

Des O'Dell 1927-1999
Peugeot Rally Club

Founder of the Peugeot Rally Club

We at Peugeot Sport take this opportunity to pay a tribute to Des O'Dell, who died peacefully on Monday 15th March.

Former competitions manager of Rootes, Chrysler, Talbot and Peugeot, Des led his teams to considerable success on the international stage. He was personally responsible for helping kick-start the careers of such great names as Henri Toivonen, Colin McRae and Richard Burns, amongst many others. One great legacy which he leaves is the Peugeot Rally Club and Peugeot Challenge, the stepping stone for many young drivers in the current stage rallying arena.

To his family and many friends, we express our condolences.

We request that you join with us in a One Minute Silence at 3pm on Sunday 21st March 1999 as a token of our respect.

Mick Linford
Peugeot Motorsport Manager

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Motoring News
Obituary by David Williams, as published in Motoring News, March 17 1999 :

Des O'Dell : The rally boss who helped a generation

Look around a modern World Rally Championship service area and it seems an eon away from the world that Des O'Dell knew, as different as a Hillman Hunter from a Focus World Rally Car. Yet the influence of the former Chrysler/Talbot competitions director, who died on Monday at the age of 72, runs far deeper than one might imagine.

A host of leading figures, from Prodrive's David Lapworth to Ford and Boreham engineer Philip Dunabin worked for him and men who passed through the Coventry workshops have also played their part at Ralliart and Motorsport Developments.

We will not see his like again. Des was an eccentric's eccentric. A garrulous, exasperating yet dedicated engineer who was gratifyingly indiscreet (he used to say that he always knew when Rootes/Chrysler was about to sack him, because someone would redecorate the office) and invariably willing to reminisce about Le Mans-winning Aston Martin DBR1s or the London-Sydney Hunter. he learned his trade with John Wyer and Aston Martins, worked on GT40s, then switched to the Rootes Group, as it was known at the time, in 1965. The Imp was becoming its principal rally car, but although Colin Malkin became 1968 British Champion in a car that never quite matched the Mini, O'Dell's best-known exploit of the Sixties was Andrew Cowan's epic London-Sydney win against the might of British Leyland, Ford and Citroën.

It was a characteristic feat of wringing the most from limited resources. O'Dell made the Avenger a formidable club rally car without having an engine to beat the Escort, then persuaded a sceptical management and workforce to build Sunbeams with Lotus engines.

The results - an RAC Rally win and the 1981 World title - might put Talbot on par with Fiat or Audi, yet the team was so stretched it contested Corsica with just 14 spare wheels.

It is a measure of the man's enthusiasm that he even in his final days, he found time to telephone Peugeot's current driver Justin Dale and offer his best wishes for the Rally of Wales; faith that the 106 driver repaid by scoring the car's first class victory on gravel.

But then, O'Dell never complained, never lost his zest for looking forwards as well as backwards. Peugeot's enduring pre-eminence on the British club scene and its nurturing of drivers like Colin McRae and Richard Burns will be remembered as much part of his legacy as London-Sydney or the world championship.

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Motoring News
Quote from Peugeot GTI Rally Challenge Winner Richard Burns - published in Motoring News, March 17 1999

"It's really sad. Des started the Challenge that allowed me to make a name for myself in Britain, but he did much more than that. When we were really struggling to get together the package to do the RAC in a Peugeot 309, it was Des who stepped in and put his faith in us."

"He wasn't really one for pep talks or giving advice. Instead he just offered the opportunity and his opinion that if you were good enough, you'd make full use of it. He had the resources to give people a chance and I think he enjoyed that. Des took satisfaction from offering young drivers a stepping stone and then watching them go further."

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Motoring News
Quote from London-Sydney Winner Andrew Cowan - published in Motoring News, March 17 1999

"Des was a great friend and I've no doubt that his influence and support allowed me to do what I did in motorsport. We won the London-Sydney together in 1968 and worked well as a team, doing all the testing and living down in Bagshot at the time."

"Des was dedicated to his staff in particular. The way he kept his department going against all odds was a credit to the man. I'd just say that he was highly regarded by everybody who worked for and with him."

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Motoring News
Quote from Ford Rally boss Malcolm Wilson - published in Motoring News, March 17 1999 :

"All I can say is he was a team manager with his finger on the pulse. The thing that stuck in my mind was the Scottish Rally when Louise (Aitken-Walker) retired with a distributor problem and the same thing could have happened to my car. It was some bobweight or bracket and he supervised getting the car out of the stage, examined it and worked out that they could fix it with Araldite or whatever."

"So he supervised repairs and I believe he even had Brian Rainbow driving through the night to make sure it was reliable before they fitted it to my car. He wasn't a young man then, but he orchestrated all that."

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From Autosport, March 18 1999

Peugeot GTI Club founder dies at 72

Des O'Dell, founder of the Peugeot GTI Rally Club, died on Monday morning after a short battle against liver cancer. O'Dell, 72,was a legendary figure who was involved in many famous successes in motorsport history.

"He will be missed," said Ford boss Malcolm Wilson, a former Peugeot driver. "His attention to detail was incredible. He'd work all night to fix even the smallest problem for any of his drivers.".

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Coventry Evening Telegraph
From the Coventry Evening Telegraph, March 16, 1999

Rallying world mourns a master

An engineer who ran rallying and racing teams for Coventry car manufacturers has died after a long illness.

The rallying world was in mourning today for Des O'Dell, who was competitions manager for Rootes, Chrysler, Talbot and Peugeot.

As well as leading his teams to success on the international stage, Mr O'Dell helped kick-start the careers of current favourites such as Colin MacRae and Richard Burns.

Mr O'Dell, who lived in Whitnash, near Leamington, died yesterday after losing a long battle against cancer. He was 72.

Brian Rainbow, co-driver in the Peugeot rally team in 1983, paid tribute to his former boss.

Mr Rainbow, who was also a team co-ordinator for Peugeot when Mr O'Dell retired in 1992, said: "All of the top engineers in rallying today were trained by Des."

He added that Ferrari grand prix team boss Jean Todt also came to prominence under Mr O'Dell as a Talbot co-driver in the world championship-winning team in 1981.

He said: "Des was a great guy to work with. He was a very competent and practical engineer. He would have been the first to admit that he didn't know the theory side but on the practical side he was first rate."

In 1991, Peugeot made their first foray back into racing in the Esso Superlube Championship under Mr O'Dell's leadership and won with driver Patrick Watts in a 309 GTI.

The farmer's son had shunned a life in agriculture to become involved in the motor world.

After a career in the army, where he helped run transport in an artillery regiment in occupied Germany, he became a mechanic with Aston Martin's racing division. He made his mark with his part in designing the DB4 series.

He led a Rootes team to victory in the 1968 London-to-Sydney rally months before the motor sports division was scrapped in cut-backs.

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Obituary by Keith Oswin, as published in Autosport March 18 1999 :

An eccentric Englishman
Rallying legend Des O'Dell died of liver cancer on Monday, aged 72, ending what he called a "fantastic life".

When Peugeot pulled the plug on its GTI Rally Challenge at the close of 1997, the end-of-year prizegiving was a strange affair. The young blades who had fought out the final championship enjoyed their moment of fame, but many of them were lost when a silvery-haired chap regaled the room with tales of events and drivers long past.

I felt a moment of sadness that they were too young to understand the significance of the old man's reminiscences. Without Des O'Dell they would not have been sitting in that room with a realistic chance of following Colin McRae and Richard Burns onto the World Rally Championship stage.Cialis dangers

Des died on Monday, aged 72, after a mercifully short battle against liver cancer. He is survived by his second wife Gail. His lifelong legacy to motorsport in general and rallying in particular should never be underestimated.

Such was his abundant enthusiasm for his "fantastic life" (as he always used to say) that you could be forgiven for believing that he had single-handedly won the '59 Le Mans Race, the '68 London-Sydney marathon, the '81 World Rally Championship, designed Peugeot's 205T16 Group B masterpiece and fathered Henri Toivonen - who he felt was the greatest rally driver that ever lived. The truth was not so far away.

He was a dreamer, passionate in his wish to make things happen, but also a practical man who gathered people around him to make his dreams come true. Shortly after World War II, he found himself sharing garage space with Ron Flockhart, and here started a relationship that would lead to Des being part of the team that took Aston Martin to a Le Mans win in '59.

His rally exploits included long hours at Bagshot, testing and fine-tuning the Hillman Hunter that would take Andrew Cowan to victory on the first London-Sydney Marathon. he was also at the head of the Talbot team when Henri Toivonen became the youngest winner of the RAC Rally in '80. As a knock-on effect of that success, he was drafted into the factory campaign when it moved up to Group B with the 205T16. you couldn't imagine anyone more different from the team boss of the time, but Jean Todt and 'Mr Des', the eccentric Englishman, proved a highly-effective partnership.

Toivonen's passion for driving mirrored Des's own fire. Every year, his Peugeot Rally Challenge drivers fought for the 'Henri Toivonen Grand Attack Trophy', which was awarded subjectively to the driver who most embodied the spirit shown by the young Finn.

Des's biggest dream was to nurture a driver to win the world championship, and when McRae won the '95 RAC, his dream came true. The Scot had been one of the original 'Young Lions', the precursor to the GTI Rally Challenge, won twice by Burns.

Too many people saw Des as someone to be tolerated for his ramblings. To have done so was to miss his essential character. he was a nightmare to interview unless you had tape to spare and time to unravel it afterwards, and handing him a microphone in front of a captive audience was folly in the extreme. Even so, you couldn't help loving him for all his idiosyncrasies. he is also fondly remembered for his attention to detail and willingness to give equal commitment to superstars and clubmen alike.

He knew his own faults only too well. On the day he retired after 27 years at Peugeot, he said: "Some people think I'm a pain, while others think I'm wonderful. I don't know how I'd prefer to be remembered, but I think I managed to get a bit done." Such honesty will be sadly missed.

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From Rick Smith of Wallington, UK - published in Autosport March 25 1999 :

'The boys' miss you, Des

I was saddened to hear of the death of Des O'Dell. Having been "one of his boys" (his phrase not mine) when I co-drove in a Sunbeam Talbot in the early 1980s, I know how he nurtured British talent, young and old.

He was probably the last of the old-style team managers, a benefactor rather than a boss. Benevolent when he felt you had done very well, but very difficult to phone to say you had crashed one of his cars.

Having hosted may evenings when Des was a guest, I know too well that you only needed to ask one question to fill up the rest of the night. He was an MC's dream.

I know I speak for all 'the boys' when I say we will never see the likes of Des again. The sport missed him the moment he retired, and will miss him even more in retrospect.

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Transcribed from page 3 of the Peugeot Times, the in-house publication of the UK-based Peugeot Motor Company plc, as published April 1999

Des O Dell : rally boss who helped a generation to new successes

Des O'Dell, former head of motorsport with the company, and one of the best known in his field for three decades, has died at 72 from cancer. A true enthusiast and dedicated engineer, he was part of the team that took Aston Martin to their Le Mans win in 1959, and worked on GT40s before in 1965 moving to Rootes, as the company was then known.

Highlights of the 60s for the company included the British Rally Champinship title with Colin Malkin and Andrew Cowan's victory in the epic London-Sydney Marathon. The team took Henri Toivonen to become the youngest winner of the RAC Rally in 1980 and in 1981 the team won the World Rally Championship.

Des founded the Peugeot Rally Challenge that became the most important series in the whole of Europe for training and developing the rally stars of the future. That dream was fulfilled when Colin McRae won the 1995 RAC Rally.

Mick Linford, motorsport manager, said :

"I was very sorry to hear about the death of Des, who was always going to be a difficult act to follow. He led some wonderful successes for Peugeot Motor Sport in the UK and I shall try and continue, based on the same principles that Des worked to. Des's biggest achievement was bringing youngsters into the sport and trying to bring them up to world champion level, which he did most recently with Colin McRae and British champion Richard Burns, also the winner of world championship events."

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From Grant Hart of Christchurch, New Zealand - received September 3 1999

Having owned more Hillman Hunters than I have had hot dinners, 8 years ago, I finally purchased what is a really rare car in New Zealand, a Hunter GLS, which I set up for classic racing. Still having the track test of one of the championship winning GLS's of 1973 and articles on the famous London to Sydney Hunter, it was logical to contact the fount of all knowledge on Hunters, one Des O'Dell. What Des must have thought, being tracked down on his home phone by this Kiwi Nut Case, I cannot imagine! Despite any misgivings he might have had, from that point there followed a series of lengthy, horrendously expensive, but oh so entertaining and informative toll calls, the memory of which I greatly treasure.

Des enthralled me with all sorts of motor sports stories and in particular some relating to The 1976 Radio New Zealand Heatway International Motor Rally in which he masterminded the "against all odds" win by Andrew Cowan and Jim Scott, in a Hillman Avenger. This was particularly fascinating as I had been a course marshal on that rally and had followed the progress of the Avenger with great interest. Des asked me why I had not chosen an Escort to classic race and my reply that I liked doing things the hard way seemed to appeal to him.

Obviously I don't expect you to post a note like this on the web site but I wanted you to be aware that Des was truly appreciated and respected about as far from home as he could possibly get. It is easy to understand why the tributes have poured in.

Yours sincerely,
Grant Hart
Proprietor, Kelford Camtech Ltd.
Camshaft and Valve Train Specialists.
Christchurch, New Zealand.

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From David Vizard, received October 21 1999 :

I would like to add my own fond memories of Des O'Dell to your web site.

I worked with Des from about 1970 to 1975 and Des gave me the opportunity to show that I could do more than just push a pen around a sheet of paper. This at a time when I was well known for my work with mini's which it appears Leyland's (as it was then) competition dept. studiously avoided giving me any credit for. Des was something else. He would take a chance on people, give them the benefit of the doubt, go the extra mile if he believed in that person, reach out and help. I could write many pages on Des's attributes and though there may be others who disagree (I can't believe there could be many) I cannot, over a 30 year period of knowing Des, come up with a single negative comment. Des put real-world meaning into the word 'outstanding' not only at his chosen career but also as a person. Well-used though the words may be, this world will be poorer as a consequence of his passing.

David Vizard

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From Kevin Furber, Peugeot Talbot Sport works driver 1990-1992 - received December 4 2000 :

As Gerry Marshal pointed out to me at Des's funeral, everyone has a Des O'Dell story, my story has been imprinted in my mind from the time we met - I was invited to Ryton to be considered for a factory drive as part of the PTS junior rally team, Des took all the young hopefuls to see the production line, from the main track a new 309 came off the production line every 4 minutes.

As we looked on, bewildered as to why Des had brought us to this location, he said "every 4 minutes, a new car, you know what that means?" none of us could see his logic, so we replied with comments like, you want us to look after them, the company is successful, "No" he replayed "that means that we can build them faster than you can crash them, so I don't want to hear anything about you not driving to your full potential!".

From that moment on I could see that cars are simply the tool that drivers uses to implement their skills and that I should pay attention to the words of this man!

His influence on me and other junior drivers of the time was immeasurable, I can't remember him without smiling, so wherever he is now, I know I'm going to the same place one day and must tell you Des that I look forward to listening you again mate!

Kevin Furber
The Studio, 11 Boatswain Croft, Hull, HU1 2EJ
Tel 01482 635350 M - 0850 732867

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From an article by Jamie Edwards on Rally of Wales winner and PBRC Championship leader Jonny Milner - published by BritishRally.co.uk in July 2002

...One final point to consider is that 13 years ago, the young Milner was still charging around the Rally Cross tracks in the UK, until former Peugeot legend the late Des O'Dell spotted the young driver in his Peugeot 205 1.6, and an interesting conversation took place

"At the time, I really wanted to get into Touring Cars, and I felt that was the best way forward. Des took me to one side and told me that if I wanted to get somewhere in motorsport, I should go into rallying, which is exactly what I did. Its funny now looking back, especially having Team Dynamics as our sponsor. They're best known for their support of Matt Neal, so I'm still hopeful that I'll get to have a go in Touring Car later this year. On the pre-championship shakedown at Sweet Lamb Forest, I took Matt around in the Corolla and I think he was quite impressed. It would be fun to see "what might have been" by driving a touring car"

Whilst Milner chuckles away at that prospect, many rally fans around the UK will breathe a sigh of relief that one of the most popular and talented drivers in the Pirelli Rally Championship was talked into rallying by Des O'Dell, who obviously knew a talent when he saw one. Thanks Des.

Jonny Milner was talking to BritishRally.co.uk.

webmaster's note : Des, armed with a box of VHS tapes he'd collected, dropped in to see me from his Humber Road headquarters way back when I was running the Video unit at Peugeot's Ryton manufacturing plant. He asked me to put together a short promo compilation to attract sponsors for this fabulous young talent he'd discovered. The footage was mightily impressive, and true to Des's impeccable talent-spotting record, it's great to see Jonny finally making his mark.

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From Sunbeam Lotus afficionado Gabriel 'Gaby' Legros, - received July 17 2002

"Merci de m'avoir indique ce site, je ferai un lien avec grand plaisir. Ce monsieur nous a fait une voiture (parmi tant d'autres) exceptionnelle et tellement pleine de sensations !"

Dampierre, France
pages personnelles

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From Graeme Lawton, Chairman, Sunbeam Lotus Owners' Club, received April 26 2003 :

Des with the Sunbeam LotusDes O'Dell created the Sunbeam Lotus - not a committee of designers or product planners, but this remarkable man and his small team at the Competitions Department in Coventry. He had long held a vision of a rally car to beat the Escorts, and when the opportunity arose he built a prototype in secret and then used it to convince the Chrysler management to put the Sunbeam Lotus into full-scale production in order to give him a winning machine.

Their faith was repaid with interest with Talbot's domination and outright victory on the Lombard RAC Rally in 1980 and then by securing the World Rally Championship in 1981, winning Group 2 in every event entered that year. This was a remarkable achievement for a team in its first - and only - attempt at this level, even more so considering the meagre budget on which his department operated. Much of the Sunbeam's success was due to its strength and quality of engineering, where Des's experience with Aston Martins and GT40s was in evidence. But the whole thing would not have been possible were it not for his strong character and his ability to get the maximum from his highly-skilled team of mechanics, engineers, driving crews and support staff. That many of the people that he employed have moved on to leading positions in motor sport is testament to the influence that he bore on them.

In later years, Des was our club President, and remained highly enthusiastic about 'his' cars, being keen to be involved even when he was ill. His talks at club National Days will be remembered fondly by all who were fortunate enough to have witnessed them. The club is full of people who are still enjoying the legacy of his desire to win rallies, and our lives would be duller without inspiration of Desmond Frank O'Dell.

Graeme Lawton
Chairman, Sunbeam Lotus Owners' Club - www.sunbeamlotus.com.

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From ex-works co-driver, ex-205 T16 project manager, Ferrari F1 team manager, Jean Todt
(as published in the Spring 1999 issue of Sunbeam Lotus Owners Club magazine, kindly forwarded by Graeme Lawton on April 26 2003)

Warm, enthusiastic, passionate and yet extraordinarily pragmatic; this was my friend Des O'Dell. A persuasive, loquacious man, a visionary who relished competition without ever forgetting a phrase that I repeat to myself every day; 'The name of the game is the win'.

Des arrived at a key moment in my life. In Great Britain, in his workshops in Coventry - which were about to become part of the P.S.A. group - he had pictured a simple little car, a Talbot Sunbeam, fitted with a large twin cam Lotus engine. Ingeniously he succeeded in getting this efficient, sturdy performance machine into motion; the Talbot-Lotus. Des was like that; a man bubbling over with ideas, trained at the old school of the Aston Martin team and John Wyer. I spent my final years as a competitor and co-driver in this Talbot-Lotus. It was 1981 and we won the World Rally Championship.

So I was part of this small group of exceptional people, with Henri Toivonen and Guy Fréquelin as our drivers, competing against much stronger teams, before I embarked on another adventure that was the creation of the Peugeot-Talbot Sport team. Des O'Dell was one of my supporters, and I will never forget that.

Often, at a crossroads in life, men who hold themselves in high regard will head off in their own direction. This wasn't the case with Des: the creation of Peugeot-Talbot Sport was inevitably going to confine the gallant little Talbot-Lotus team to the background of the sporting concerns of P.S.A., but Des didn't abandon me, for all that. Exactly the opposite; he came and joined our team. Historically speaking, he was the first technical director of Peugeot-Talbot Sport, right there at the inception of the 205 Turbo 16. Unfortunately, the death of his wife compelled him to return to Britain. He nevertheless remained my dependable and understanding friend, whom I always took great pleasure in seeing again. He was still the same Des O'Dell that I had always known, but he had become one of the fervent supporter of Scuderia Ferrari. He would visit me regularly at Silverstone during the Formula 1 Grand Prix, and of course at Maranello. Today he is no longer here, and I mourn him along with his family and friends. He will forever remain part of one of the most outstanding periods of my life.

Jean Todt

Chaleureux, enthousiaste, passionné et pourtant extraordinairement pragmatique, tel était mon ami Des O'Dell. Un homme volubile, visionnaire, persuasif, qui prenait la compétition à bras le corps sans jamais oublier une formule que je me répète chaque jour : 'The name of the game is the win'.

Des est arrivé à un moment-clef de ma vie. En Grande Bretagne, dans ses ateliers de Coventry, qui allaient appartenir au groupe P.S.A., il avait imaginé une petite voiture simple, une Talbot Sunbeam, dans laquelle il avait installé un gros moteur Lotus double arbre. A force d'ingéniosités, il avait réussi à mettre sur ses roues cet engin efficace, solide et performant : la Talbot Lotus. Des était comme cela : un homme bouillonnant d'idées et formé a la vieille école de l'équipe Aston Martin et de John Wyer. J'ai passé dans cette Talbot-Lotus mes dernières années de compétiteur et de coéquipier. C'était en 1981 et nous avons gagné le championnat du monde des rallyes.

Je faisais donc partie, contre des équipes beaucoup plus puissantes, de ce petit groupe de francs-tireurs dont les pilotes étaient Henri Toivonen et Guy Fréquelin, cela avant de me lancer dans une autre aventure qui fut la création de l'équipe Peugeot-Talbot Sport. Des O'Dell fut l'un des mes supporters, je ne l'ai jamais oublié.

Souvent, lorsque l'on arrive à la croisée des chemins, les choses de la vie séparent des hommes qui pourtant s'estimaient, Ce ne fut pas le cas avec Des : la création de Peugeot-Talbot Sport allait évidemment faire passer à l'arrière-plan des préoccupations sportives de P.S.A. la vaillante petite équipe Talbot-Lotus. Je n'en délaissais pas Des pour autant. Bien au contraire : il vint rejoindre notre équipe. Historiquement parlant, il fut le premier directeur technique de Peugeot-Talbot Sport, l'un des premiers à se pencher sur le berceau de la 205 Turbo 16. Malheureusement, la mort de sa femme le contraignit à regagner la Grande Bretagne. Il resta néanmoins cet ami indéfectible et indulgent que je pris toujours plaisir à revoir. Il était ce même Des O'Dell que je connaissais, mais il était devenu l'un des fervents amateurs de la Scuderia Ferrari. Il me rendait régulièrement visite à Silverstone lors du grand prix de Formule 1, et bien sûr à Maranello. Aujourd'hui, il n'est plus là, et comme son entourage, je le pleure. Mais il restera présent à jamais dans l' une des périodes Ies plus marquantes de ma vie.

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From Christian BAILLY, 'Responsable de la gestion sportive' at Talbot Lotus WRC 1980-81
received via e-mail, November 10 2003

Des, Tour de Corse, 1980I have been involved in TALBOT Lotus WRC Team for the years 80 and 81, and found the Des O'Dell site on the net while I was looking for some pictures on the TALBOT Lotus.

As 'Responsable de la gestion sportive' between the English team and the French Board, specially for the budget (!.......) and the PR, I spent two years of my professional life with that extraordinary Irish DES.

I have I think the most important collection of photos and dias of the team for that two years.

Let me pay tribute to DES by sending you one of my favorite photo of DES (Tour de Corse), meaning that DES was not always a pain, not always wonderful, but always human !!

From the "Des Bloody French" with regards

Christian BAILLY

Below, more classic photos from the archives of Christian Bailly...

Des and I (Christian Bailly), 20 years ago at a prizegiving, maybe December 1980
Des and I (Christian BAILLY), 20 years ago at a prizegiving, maybe December 1980.

Des talking with Michelin man Yves BOUTTE during the RAC
Des talking with Michelin man Yves BOUTTE during the RAC.

Myself (Christian Bailly) with the camera and Etienne CHAPAZ, the blind osteopath who followed Guy FREQUELIN, at the Acropolis Rally in 1981.
Myself (with the camera) and Etienne CHAPAZ (the blind osteopath who followed Guy FREQUELIN) at the Acropolis Rally in 1981.

Dinner party at the Sporting Club, Monte Carlo, 1981, after Guy Frequelin finished 2nd behind J Ragnotti.
Dinner party at the Sporting Club, Monte Carlo, 1981, after Guy Frequelin finished 2nd behind J Ragnotti. On the left, Colin COOK, Jean Philippe PEUGEOT, Myself (Christian BAILLY), Mrs ......, Guy FREQUELIN, Mrs .........., and on the right Des O'DELL, Jean TODT, Mr LLEWELLYN ..........., Mrs FREQUELIN , Mr .........

Corsica (recce) - September 1980 - Myself (Christian Bailly, Etienne CHAPAZ (ostheopath), Philippe JARRY, Jean TODT, Guy FREQUELIN, Paul WHITE.
Corsica (recce) - September 1980 - Myself (Christian Bailly), Etienne CHAPAZ (ostheopath), Philippe JARRY, Jean TODT, Guy FREQUELIN, Paul WHITE

Henri Toivonen, end of the Irish Rally 1980

RAC 1981
Stig Blomqvist, RAC 1981

Bernard Unett in action
Bernard Unett in action

Phil and the engine
Phil and the engine, Stoke workshop.

Des O'Dell, April 81
Des O'Dell, April 81.

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The above collection of remeniscences and tributes is presented in appreciation and celebration of Des O'Dell's remarkable career in motorsport.
DesODell.com is a strictly non-profit making web-based exhibition. My thanks to those who have taken the time to contribute. If you have any items worthy of inclusion and would like to see them displayed here, please send them to . Thank you.

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