Among the most talented Special Saloon racers of the golden 1970s era, and a Castle Combe fan favourite, Dorset timber merchant John Turner passed away in December, aged 81, having battled cancer stoically for 18 months.

Brought up at the family sawmills in Stalbridge, 50 miles from Combe, John won the BARC’s Osram-GEC and Brands Hatch’s Atlantic Petroleum championships in 1970 and enjoyed a superb record here, winning nine of the 27 races he entered between 1969 and ’74 outright, against strong opposition.

More significantly, following his first podium – a second in August ’69 – he won in each of his cars: four times in the Hillman Imp in ’70; once each in Group 2 Sunbeam Imp, 1000cc Ford Anglia-BRM and 2000cc Escort-BRM V8 in ’71,’72 and ’73 respectively, and twice in the fabulous Skoda-Chevrolet S110R in ’74.

Undaunted by the immaculate self-built Escort’s demise in a fiery practice shunt at Silverstone, but buoyed by ongoing support from the Bath-based Insurance Advisory Service, John and his crew bounced back strongly, having masterminded the ‘Škod missile’ build over the winter.

The marriage of the Czech steel shell and the five-litre American V8 engine – which replaced an 1107cc Skoda four – Hewland DG300 gearbox and suspension cannibalised from an uncompetitive Formula 5000 Leda LT22 was inspired. Thus emerged a formidable weapon for the newly announced Super Saloon series.

Fittingly, the combo’s first victory came fifth time out, at Combe, on July 13, 1974, where John snared the lap record at 99.46mph. Although he retired from August’s ‘Superloon’ race he returned nine days later and equalled Capri V8 ace Mick Hill’s new 102.22mph target.

John raced the Skoda to nine victories – taking chequers subsequently at Oulton Park, Kirkistown (Northern Ireland),  Knutstorp (Sweden), Brands Hatch, Thruxton and Mallory Park – in a marathon season spanning 25 starts over 23 events, the equipe transported in an old Bedford coach. World F1 and double Can-Am champion Denny Hulme even tested the car and loved it!

The following year Turner switched to F5000, having acquired the Lola T330 raced in ’74 by Italian woman Lella Lombardi, besting at fifth in the category’s Brands Hatch finale. His career-defining result, though, was winning the tough 2-litre class of the ’75 Spa 1000Kms, a World Sportscar Championship round, sharing Pete Smith’s Chevron B21/23.

Having hung up his helmet at the end of ’75, John took up horse racing, enjoying success at point-to-points and National Hunt racing, for which he bred big Newmarket winner Compton Place. Always seeking the next challenge, sailing then became his passion, a Round The Island [Isle of Wight] race class win completing his diverse sporting CV.