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Ansip unveils Michael Park memorial

  • 2006-06-28
  • By staff and wire reports

IN FOND MEMORY: The late British co-driver Michael Park was welcomed and admired by Estonians as one of their own, Ansip (right) told the driver's family.

TALLINN - Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip unveiled a memorial last week to British rally driver Michael Park, who died last September in an accident during the Wales Rally GB. Park was navigating for Estonia's Markko Martin on Sept. 18 when his Peugeot 307 lost control during stage 15 of the Welsh rally. The vehicle crashed on the passenger side into a tree during the 17-mile Margam stage. Martin escaped uninjured.

"Michael Park was honored and loved here in Estonia," Ansip said, addressing the driver's family during the somber ceremony held at Tallinn Bay.
"For us he wasn't a foreigner, he was our co-driver, our own hero. He was a member of the Estonian team," AFP reported Ansip as saying.

'Known for his warm sense of humor, 'Beef' Park became a fan favorite, both in his native England and second home Estonia. He was a highly-experienced co-driver who had worked with former champions Richard Burns and Colin McRae.
Married with children, the Brit first began rallying on the world championship circuit in 1994 as Mark Higgins' co-driver.
Park, a rally enthusiast since the age of 10, gained experience with some of Britain's top talents.
He teamed up with Martin in 2000 when the Estonian was rallying a privately-entered Toyota.

Park and Martin drove together at Subaru and Ford before switching to Peugeot in 2005. The pair won five world rallies together.
Estonian sculptor Mati Karmin created the memorial - a cube standing on one of its corners and bearing Park's name.
The ceremony was attended by present and former rally champions, including Tommi Makinen, Sebastian Loeb, Marcus Gronholm, Colin McRae and Petter Solberg, along with Park's widow and his two children. Rally team leaders Malcolm Wilson, Christian Loriaux and David Lapworth were also present.

Following the memorial, a charity Star Track karting rally was held to raise money for the Michael Park Fund, which backs projects in Estonia, Britain and elsewhere. Among other highlights, the ceremony featured an auction of Park and Martin's driving outfits.
Park is survived by wife Marie and children William and Victoria.
His death, the first top-level rallying fatality in quite some time, brought renewed attention to safety issues in the motorsport world.