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Respected champion and voice of rallying dies at 92

Derek Johnston, a former winner of the Monte Carlo Rally and the Circuit of Ireland, has died at the age of 92.

After his competitive driving days were done, he became the voice of Ulster motorsport on the BBC for more than 40 years.

Although never a full-time broadcaster, he was always the consummate professional, the essence of reliability and accuracy. From a motorsport point of view, he had the perfect qualifications.

An enthusiastic and skilled competitor from the immediate post-war years, he went on to become one of just four people from Northern Ireland to have won the Circuit of Ireland and the Monte Carlo Rally.

The only other members of this elite club are Ronnie Adams, Paddy Hopkirk and Terry Harryman. It was with Adams and Frank Biggar that Derek shared victory in a works Jaguar on the Monte in 1955, three years after he had driven his MG to first place on the Circuit of Ireland, his close friend George Bryson navigating.

Derek, who served in the RAF during the Second World War and later ran his own garage business, had been reporting for the BBC for some 20 years when I first met him and in my early days, he provided a road map into the sport – and especially the art of rally reporting. Derek was one of the people who helped to raise the profile, change the perception and tell the story of events like the Circuit of Ireland in terms that could be understood by his listeners.

He covered the Circuit for four decades and especially relished the years when he had BBC Northern Ireland's head of sport, Malcolm Kellard, for company.

Derek was a man from a different era – an era when good manners were the rule and everyone should be treated with respect.

In turn, he was highly respected, both as a competitor and a broadcaster and a true friend, as well as a mentor. Sincere condolences to his wife Joan, sons Brian and Colin, daughter Carole and the wider family circle.

Belfast Telegraph


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