Colin Francis OBE – Obituary

First published December 2015.


Our Area remembers Colin Francis from the time about ten years ago when he came to give us a well-attended and entertaining talk at the Red Lion, Lower Withington.  Sadly he died recently at the age of 80 after declining health over the last two years – his funeral at Tetbury in Gloucestershire was attended by a large contingent of rallying people reflecting Colin’s influence over many years as a very successful navigator, co-driver, organiser, team manager and committee man.

Colin began his rallying with Aberdare MC (organisers of the Nutcracker MN round).  His partnership with Frank Pierson in Cortinas and Escorts brought success in road and stage rallies during the late 60s and early 70s – Colin won 6 Motoring News rallies and was twice runner-up in the Championship, and with Frank he won the BTRDA Silver Star three times.  They drove for Dealer Team Vauxhall for a while and this connection led to Colin rallying on major stage rallies with Pentti Airikkala and they won the 1977 Welsh International in a DTV Chevette.  Colin went on to manage the DTV team on stage rallies for the next few years.  He continued with some road rallying too, with veteran Ted Cowell.

Colin was involved from the early days as historic rallying developed and became a key figure in the historic rallying world, sitting on the FIA Historic committee and at the FBHVC.  He competed regularly on historic road events in the UK and abroad and won the 2005 FIA Historic Regularity Championship.

Colin was a friendly and helpful man and many a rallyist gives thanks to him for help and advice readily offered.  It is estimated he rallied with about 130 different drivers – is this a record?

In his working life Colin was a senior civil servant, initially with HM Customs and Excise and then with the Welsh Office.  He was awarded the OBE for his work on industrial development in north Wales.

We offer our condolences to his wife Val and daughters Avril and Helen.

Nigel Raeburn adds:

If I may offer a personal reflection.  I will miss Colin – our rallying careers followed similar paths and we competed on many of the same rallies in both the ‘modern’ era in the 60s and 70s and in historics over the last 20 or so years.  He was a very capable navigator – I remember I was on the East Anglian Classic when it had a night section with difficult plot and bash navigation – I was really struggling to unravel one bit of plotting and we (I was within Geoff Breakell) had stopped to try to work it out when Colin’s car came flashing past looking purposeful – ‘follow them’ I shouted and we did, and found all the controls!  No wonder he was known as the ‘Welsh wizard’.  In road rallying when I was with Will Sparrow we had many close battles with Frank and Colin – they were a formidable crew.  Another memory is from Le Jog – I was with Andy Nash and our Tiger’s engine had totally died after the floods in Somerset.  Colin was with William Cadbury in the course closing car, complete with trailer.  Let’s just say the trailer came in very useful and at Magor in south Wales we were able to rejoin the event under our own power and carry on to get a Silver Medal.  At least one passage control was visited with our car on the trailer – maybe a bit more assistance from the closing car than the regulations had anticipated!  I cherish the memories.

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