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Old December 18th, 2007, 05:12 PM
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John Crouse
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Tony Fall dies of heart attack

This is sad news. Tony was the force behind Safety Devices.

Tony Fall dies of heart attack

Mon 10 Dec, 06:00 PM

Former works driver and successful team manager Tony Fall died in his sleep while attending the weekend's East African Safari Classic Rally. He was 67.

Although long retired from serious competition, Fall had recently taken to driving a replica of his original Datsun in historic rallies with Yvonne Mehta, and was in Africa on 'holiday', helping with the organisation of an event he loved - and which had been the scene of many of his triumphs. He was taken ill in Tanzania at the start of the weekend and is believed to have suffered a heart attack while sleeping on Saturday night [1 December].

Richard Anthony Fall was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, in 1940. He began rallying, in a Mini, while working as a car salesman, and was soon spotted by BMC Competitions team manager Stuart Turner, and co-opted into the works team alongside Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Makinen and Rauno Aaltonen. His first major international victory in the Mini was the 1966 Circuit of Ireland, where he was co-driven by Henry Liddon.

Fall rallied with BMC for three seasons - including competing on the original London-Sydney Marathon and finishing 23rd in a Morris 1800 - before joining the Lancia team, where he achieved his highest-ever finish on the RAC Rally of Great Britain, taking third in 1969. He then joined Datsun for three seasons, achieving many high placings on world rallies, at the same time driving for other factory teams, including BMW, Porsche and VW.

Always one for an adventure, Fall also tackled the World Cup Rally, run from London to Mexico in 1970, with celebrity co-driver Jimmy Greaves. Despite the football ace's inexperience with the notes, the pair finished sixth. Twenty-five years later, Fall competed on the re-run of the event, finishing one place higher. In all, he took a dozen international victories in his rally career.

Once out of the cockpit, Fall began a long association with General Motors, starting in 1974 when he established the Dealer Opel Team and going on to employ such talents as Ari Vatanen and Tony Pond. Success in the UK led to his appointment as director of motorsport for German-based GM Euro Sport in 1978. Under his direction, Walter Rohrl became WRC champion in 1982.

In the latter part of the decade, Fall's attention diverted briefly from rallying as he introduced the Opel-Vauxhall Lotus single-seater category, which launched the careers of many grand prix stars, including Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard, as well as sportscar ace Allan McNish.

Fall returned to the UK in 1990, initially as manager, then owner, of motorsport safety equipment manufacturer Safety Devices. He was managing director of the company - famous for the production of roll cages - at the time of his death.

"Tony's passing comes as a huge shock to everyone, as he appeared to be in the best of health and was applying his great energy to his many interests," lamented Safety Devices chairman Bevan Braithwaite, "His leadership of Safety Devices International occupied much of his time, and the past two years had been spent putting systems in place that ensured the smooth operation of the business, so that he could take more time off participating in his great love - motorsport." Fall is survived by wife Pat, sons Richard and Oliver from a previous marriage, and grandchildren Louis, Charles and Mia.
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