British driver 'a true champion'
The father of British racing driver Dan Wheldon, who was killed in a high-speed crash in America on Sunday, has paid tribute to his son, describing him as a "true champion" and a "gentleman on and off the track".
Wheldon died after a 15-vehicle pile-up while competing in the Las Vegas Indy 300 when his car was sent flying over another and burst into flames. The 33-year-old, who was competing for a five million US dollar prize, was taken to hospital by helicopter but died of his injuries.
His father Clive, speaking outside the family home in Emberton, Buckinghamshire, said: "The family would like to thank everyone for their overwhelming outpouring of sympathy. Daniel was born to be a racer and yesterday left us doing what he loved to do. He was a true champion and a gentleman on and off the track."
The grieving father, who was being comforted by his sons Austen, 26, and Ashley, 30, added: "He was a proud brother to Austen, Ashley, Elliott and Holly. He was a devoted son to Sue and myself and a loving husband to his wife."
His voice wavering with emotion, Mr Wheldon concluded his brief statement by saying: "Words cannot describe how much our family will miss him. He touched so many and the world is a better place because of Dan."
Earlier, former IndyCar driver Mark Blundell said the crash that killed Wheldon was "inevitable". Drivers reached speeds of up to 220mph, and the large number of cars - 34 - made racing on the 1.5-mile circuit even more treacherous with such narrow margins for error.
Mr Blundell told the BBC: "When things go wrong they go wrong in a big way." He added: "It was inevitable in many ways. It was a recipe for disaster when you look at what was going on."
Motorsport legend Jackie Stewart questioned whether the race should have gone ahead at all, because the Las Vegas circuit was not designed for races with so many cars capable of such speeds.
He told Sky News: "In Las Vegas it is a 1.5-mile oval, and there were 34 cars in the field. I think that was too many for such a short track. There were too many cars locked up together.
"Getting through that traffic, for a driver like Dan Wheldon for example, which he was surely wanting to do, was a very precarious business."