Tributes to John Ledster

UK racer and then race official John Ledster died on Wednesday 30th November 2011 after a long illness. John's good friend and fellow British Drag Racing Hall of Fame member Phil Evans writes:

John played a very important part in the history of British drag racing, first in the seventies as a Pro Stock racer with his Mustang and later as Race Director at Santa Pod.He was a long time member of the Executive Committee of the old British Drag Racing and Hot Rod Association and I first got to know him when he invited me to join that committee in 1972. In the early 1990s hewas a founder member of the Santa Pod Racers Club and for many years he was Chairman of the MSA Dragster Committee as well as the UK delegate to the FIA Drag Racing Commission.

John was also very successful in other motorsport disciplines, for instance asthe resident MSA Steward for the prestigious Stars of the Future Karting Championshipand he also stewarded at many circuit race events.

We have received the following tributes to John. To send your own tribute, E-Mail

The most recently-received tributes are at the top of the page.

May I say a big thank you for all your kind words. I know it means the world to my mum and the rest of our family that dad is so fondly remembered on this site.

When I think of my dad I also think of drag racing, what more can I say. Get up to the control tower in heaven Dad, and look down on the sport you loved.

-- Bryan Ledster

I had the pleasure of working very closely with John Ledster for many years while we served together on the FIA Drag Racing Commission. John was the MSA representative, and always worked very hard on behalf of the UK and European drag racing community. I was able to spend quality time with John and Liz during our many travels to Commission meetings around the world, and found them to be absolutely delightful people. I will always look back upon my relationship with John and Liz with great fondness, and I wish his family the best in this difficult time. RIP my friend.

-- Carol Olson

A sad goodbye to John. Our world of drag racing was built upon the goodwill and hard efforts of enthusiasts and supporters alike. The success of drag racing here in the UK and Europe owes a lot to John and his family, and I can only second all the various tributes on this page. On a personal note John gave his time and energy to the full for his love of the sport. His achievements on and off the track are too numerous to mention, may we never forget that.

-- Roy Phelps

The remaining members of the Stones Racing Team would like to offer our condolences to Liz and family on the loss of John. He will be fondly remembered by us all, and sitting here writing this I can recall so many humorous events as I know many other people will as well. One of my memories that brings a smile is Jim Read, Dennis Stone and John sitting in the car park at the motel in Sweden and Gerald Andrews throwing a bucket of cold water and soaking all three of them, the look on their faces is a memory I hold dear. May he rest in peace.

-- Dave Stone

I remember John best from the 70s when he raced his Mustang. A very friendly helpful guy, always had a smile on his face. A pleasure to have known him. My condolences to his family.

-- Peter Crane

I go back to the early seventies with Big John, big heart. We were all having work done by the late Bootsie and John Harrison to our cars: the Stones, the Pages, Stripteaser, Stagecoach, Sheavills and many more, a meeting place as well. I was proud to be in such special company. I'm sure he's setting up a race track for when we all get there one day. So very sad for your great loss. My fondest regards and love to you all.

-- Vic Hammond

I never knew John but I know his son Bryan very well, Bryan is also a motorsport follower and a very nice bloke indeed. Bryan has told us all how the great man played a big part in drag racing, and also Bryan played his part alongside his dad. It's sad news indeed and mine and Eileens thoughts are with the whole family at this sad time. RIP Big John.

-- Peter Wilkinson

Very saddened to hear of the passing of Big John and of the trials and tribulations he endured in the past of few years. John was great advisor when we were setting up the Midland Drag Racing Association and in our efforts to establish permanent racing at Long Marston in the mid 70s. My condolences to Liz and the Ledster family.

-- Ron Clark

I am stunned with the news of John's passing. My earliest memories back in the late 70s with a big man great racer big heart, one of the true legends in my drag race world, my deepest sympathies to all his family, another huge loss for the drag community, rest in peace my friend.

-- Paul 'Grumpy' Watson

We are so sorry to hear thatJohn has passed away and have been trying to count the hours each of us have spent withhim at various Club,inter club, Safety and MSA meetings. He was the most loyal drag racing fan, always willing to listen to many different sides of the story before trying to get everyone to agree on the way forward and remain friends afterwards. His influence behind the scenes with the MSA, for the good of the sport, wasoverlooked by manyor not even known aboutand he gotdrag racingthrough many a brick wall situation. John would always 'have a word' with the right people at the right time and his committment in time, effort and enthusiasm to the sport of drag racing is unsurpassed. Our condolences to Liz and the family.

-- John and Lesley Wright

So saddened to hear the news of John's passing. Sincere condolences to Liz and the boys at this time. John was my inspiration and guide, letting me share his thoughtful, sensible approach to drag racing officialdom. Teaching me how the quiet word, and understanding voice could calm the racer who seconds earlier had lumps of tarmac shrapnel spitting from his feet marching to race control with murderous intent. John's humour, and sensible approach to directing races, and his companionship through the years humouring the RAC MSA at Speed Events Committee meetings, and winning credibility for our sport, all gave me an insight into the kind of official I wanted to be. I could never have emulated John in my contributions, but I hope I learned well from him, he was a great teacher, and I like to think my efforts were so much the better for his patient input. Thanks John, I'll always be proud to say I knew you, your contributions to drag racing live on. RIP my friend.

-- Graham Beckwith

i was gutted to read that john ledster has departed our world. when i was the rebel racer trying to get into top alcohol john was always kind to me and very helpful. he was a big man with a big heart n will be sorely missed. rest well my old friend. half revs

-- Smax Smith

I was deeply saddened to read of the passing of John Ledster. In my days of officiating he was always a wise head who offered unstinting good advice in a patient and friendly manner, no matter how daft the question I asked. I will forever be in his debt and drag racing will not be the same without his benevolent gaze upon us.

-- Dave Alexander

I was sorry to hear that Liz and British drag racing had lost a great contributor and friend in Big John. I wrote to him in Devon a while back and when I re-read it I thought and I hope Liz doesnt mind, Id share my letter and memories of a great guy.

Many years ago - when I was nought but a lad! - my brother Allen and I built our first race car Pop Draggin. The Pop took us two years and every penny we ever earned. We first ran it at the World Finals in 1978. Only one of us could drive so I let my little brother do the honours. During that event there was a lull before the finals and a testing half hour was slipped into the proceedings. I went to the tower and asked if there was any chance of a run up the strip in our car. There were quite a few people milling about, but Big John said that it was against the rules as I was not entered. I was very disappointed as we walked away, but then as the people dispersed John called me back and asked how fast the car was running. Proud as punch I said we had run a best of 18.04. His response was "Well with a helmet on whos to know whos driving", holding a single finger up in the air. Five minutes later I had run my first ever quarter mile pass, an 18.17/74.

Kind gestures like that mean a lot and help mould a young man like me. I like to think over the years I have tried to show that same spirit of sensible - sportsmanlike approach to many of the challenges life throws up at us. 35 years later and still drag racing and still spending a lot more than I should but what a great 35 years... thanks John.

-- Mark Flavell

Deeply saddened to hear the news about Big John. I have had the pleasure of knowing John all my drag racing career. Always a gentleman and a true ambassador for our sport. My condolences to all the family. RIP.

-- Barry Sheavills

John lived up to his nickname, Big John Ledster in both stature and character, always there when I needed advice or comment when publishing Drag Racing News. My thoughts are for him and with his family at this sad time.

-- Roger Gorringe

My heart sank when I heard the news. Big John will be missed. A father of the sport in so many ways. RIP.

-- Geoff Stilwell

It is with great sadness that we hear of the death of John. I knew John from the early 1970s both in racing and as a member of the BDR&HRA committee. Many do not know that John nursed his wife Liz for many years through her illness. I also knew John as a senior official during my time as team owner racing in the British Touring Car Championships, a true sportsman and very fair official. Liz, even though I have not seen you for many years, I wish you and the family our best wishes and deepest condolences in this very sad occasion. John was a great person and I am proud to have known him.

-- Mike Kason

Big John was the name on the side of his Mustang, and it aptly fitted the man. He was one of those larger than life characters, and it was a pleasure to know and work with him. There are certainly some happy memories of him to make one smile at this sad time.

-- Keith Lee

I was sad to hear that John had eventually succumbed to his illness. I last saw him when I visited him and Liz in their Devon cottage when they both helped me with stories for Crazy Horses. He really played some important roles as drag racing developed which is why he is in the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame. That way his input will be remembered forever.

-- Brian Taylor

In my early days in the sport, I spent lots of time with John on race weekends and his wife Liz at RWYB events (I rather think Roy and Bob Phelps tasked John and Liz with the awful job of trying to teach me something about the sport with me knowing absolutely nothing!). He was so knowledgeable and tried his best to help and guide me. I have a photograph of John taken one weekend at the Pod in the early 80s - not being a Race Director or race official, but with jacket and bobble hat on, here he was, with paintbrush in hand, painting the Armco around the startline. He just wanted the sport to succeed and would do all he could to make that happen. From me and my family to Liz, the Twins and the rest of John's family and friends, we send our sincere condolences. Rest in Peace Big John - we will all miss you.

-- John Price

Saddened to hear the news about John, condolences to all the family. Great bloke but most of all he was a guy you could always talk sense with. RIP.

-- Bennett Racing

We are both deeply saddened by the news, John was a true gentleman and was always ready with advise and the odd telling off when it was deserved. A great racer, Race Director and ambassador for the sport. Our thoughts are with the family at this sad time.

-- Steve and Jacky Young

John was one of the first people we met on our introduction to drag racing and later we served on Commitee with him and he was aiways the voice of reason among all the politics and horse trading that went on in the 70s/80s and always a gentleman, now gone to a better place. RIP BIG JOHN.

-- Rod and Anne Pallant

I am really sorry to hear the news about Big John, a true gentleman in every sense with time to talk to everyone. One of notorsport's true ambassadors. RIP.

-- Glenn Stockton

We were saddened to hear that John is no longer with us, he was a familiar figure at SCR as a MSA Steward, and even in his official capacity, he always had time to talk, advise, and generally a lovely person to talk to,with a wealth of knowledge which heimparted to many of us,and hopefully his wisdom, common sensewill stay with us all. From everyone that knew himwe all send our condolences and love to his family and friends.

-- Shakespeare County Raceway/APIRA crew, staff and management

So sad to hear the news about John. One of the great pillars of the sport and a real gentleman. Thanks for all your help John, RIP.

-- Richard Warburton

John was an amazing person. He pointed everyone in the right direction and had time for everyone including myself. He will be sadly missed. RIP John.

-- Nigel Anniwell

John was very influential in my days as Assistant Race Director and Race Director. I will fondly remember the days of being on the SPRC committee and attendingAnnual General Meetings and Riders and Drivers meetings, with at least one of us coming home with all of the cutlery, cups or glasses in our case or bag put there my the man himself, John on one occasion I think went home with the rocks from one of the plant pots from around the room in his briefcase!Hewill be missed.

-- John Hackney

My condolences to Liz and all the family and friends.John has contributed a great deal to drag racing as well as other forms of Motorsport. I'm just sorry he lost the strength to overcome his illness. We will miss his presence and company.

-- Stu Bradbury

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