Former British GT race winner and Le Mans competitor Neil Cunningham passed away on Thursday following a long fight against Motor Neurone Disease. He was 53.
The Auckland-born, UK-based driver competed in a wide variety of open-wheel and sports car championships, including making starts in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as being an accomplished stunt driver for both Top Gear and the James Bond films.
He was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, more commonly known in the U.S. as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2010, and retired from racing shortly after.
Cunningham was a major player in helping raise awareness of the debilitating disease, through his charity work in racing4mnd.org, an official charity of the British GT Championship that to date has raised nearly $150,000.
British GT Championship manager Benjamin Franassovici has paid tribute to Cunningham, a four-time race winner in the series.
“The determination to continually fight and defy such a debilitating disease said everything about Neil’s character,” Franassovici said.
“It’s something that will stay with me and all those who knew him during the final years of his life. Neil was one of the good guys; I doubt there’s anyone in the paddock who has a bad word to say about him.
“Neil never let the disease define him, which I think is a remarkable quality given how serious MND is.
“He last attended a British GT event in 2014, by which time he must have been in a lot of pain. But I remember him refusing to let that hold him back on the day. That and the sheer volume of genuine goodwill from others in the paddock is something I won’t forget.”
Cunningham leaves behind his wife Rachel and sons Bo and Teddy, as well as his first wife Karen and their daughter Jaime.
Sportscar365 extends its condolences to the Cunningham family at this difficult time.