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Jack Cunningham 1952-2013

An Appreciation

Jack Cunningham became much more than a friend to DSC over the years, as you’ll read in a few moments. He was a very successful businessman, but perhaps there was a slight naivety about Jack – perhaps he was naïve to think that motor sport, in endurance racing terms, was a way to build a business, rather than a quick way to spend a lot of money.

But he loved being involved. That involvement began during his second career. His first was as an airline pilot, and I’ll never forget him explaining why he fell out of love with piloting aircraft. Paraphrasing just a little:

“I was just lifting off in a 737 when, from the flight deck, we heard a loud bang. We were barely airborne, alarms were sounding, and for a few seconds you don’t know what the future holds. It turned out to be the APU right at the back exploding, and we climbed away with no more dramas – but I decided from that moment that I’d be seeking another way to earn a living.”

His future was in buying and selling aircraft, and Jack subsequently spent more time sitting in aircraft than he ever did flying them. Criss-crossing the planet, meeting airline executives, can’t have been the healthiest, least stressful lifestyle life style – and meeting Jack at a track somewhere probably meant that he’d arrived from some far-off place, and was jet-lagged beyond belief.

But he loved being involved in motor sport – and initially that was with the MG EX257 project, at Le Mans in 2001/2. Jack had invested in Chamberlain Motorsport, and Hugh had taken on that ambitious, last-minute MG prototype programme. MG had stipulated a brand new, clean-sheet engine as late as October 2000, so Hugh and his men were fighting a real battle to have the cars ready for testing and the race. For Jack, he could enjoy being at the 24 Hours, in his MG Sport and Racing jacket, looking every bit the ‘team owner’.

At the end of the MG project, CMS had to work hard to create a programme, and that was initially built around a Viper. One of the finest sights I ever saw was Xavier Pompidou in the CMS Viper and Nigel Greensall in a Stealth hurtling through Woodcote in a one-off British GT night race. Coincidentally, both cars featured the url of a forerunner of DSC. Jack was always a great admirer of this website, just as we were of any Viper project – and he was such a kind fellow that he offered his home in California to this writer, for a holiday – twice.

2002’s programme included a Dome LMP, with a couple of late season appearances in the ALMS. Milka Duno money helped fund that effort, and Vic Elford was coaching the Venezuelan lady at the time – which led to this John Brooks image of Jack and Vic in the California sunshine.

Raising the funding for two ladies to race the Viper in British GTs was always going to be a struggle, and that effort fizzled out – but Jack popped up to front the Malaysian effort in A1GP, and Alex Yoong had considerable success in that car. Jack had a plan to build a motor sport business in Malaysia, but the collapse of the single-seater series can’t have helped prospects, and he faded out of motor sport.

Now he’s left us for good, and we’ll mourn the passing of a very kind, generous man. Endurance racing needs good guys like Jack Cunningham.