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Tributes paid to Professor Sid Watkins
TRIBUTES have been paid to safety and medical pioneer Professor Sid Watkins who was producing a play at York Theatre Royal, who has died at the age of 84.
Neurosurgeon Professor Sid Watkins was at the forefront of Formula 1 safety for more than 30 years, and was a close friend of the late three-time champion Ayrton Senna, serving as the sport’s medical delegate from 1978 until 2004. He was instrumental in introducing many of the safety improvements in the sport during that period.
After stepping down as president of the FIA institute last year, a role he continued on an honorary basis, he began his involvement with the York Theatre Royal production of The Guinea Pig Club, with his wife Susan who wrote the play.
The Guinea Pig Club tells the story of pioneering plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe and his guinea pig patients, the savagely burned fighter pilots of the Second World War.
Mr Watkins drew inspiration from Sir McIndoe and was friends with some of the Guinea Pig Club members, who visited him in hospital last week.
Thomas Feeney, of York Theatre Royal, said: “Sid was a skilled, visionary and inspirational man. Damian Cruden, artistic director, spent a lot of time with Sid and Susan over the last few months developing the play, which went into rehearsals on Monday.
“It is most cruel that the timing of Sid’s death means he will not see the completion of this project, however even while in hospital last week, Sid communicated with Damian to make sure that all was well with the project and that it was continuing to go ahead – testament to Sid’s commitment and enthusiasm to a cause.
“We’re terribly saddened by the loss of Sid and everyone involved with the Guinea Pig Club here at York Theatre Royal will be working to ensure that this production is the success that Sid and Susan worked for and wanted it to be. Our thoughts are with Susan and the rest of his family.”
Tributes have also flooded in from the sporting world. After Mr Watkins’s death on Tuesday, McLaren chairman and former team boss Ron Dennis said: “Today the world of motor racing lost one of its true greats.”
As F1 trackside doctor, he played a major role in saving the lives of several Grand Prix drivers after heavy crashes including Didier Pironi in 1982, and Mika Hakkinen in 1995.
Mr Watkins is survived by his widow Susan, their four sons and two daughters.