JUNE 4, 2001
DEREK WRIGHT, the editor of the British magazine FORMULA 1 NEWS, died on Friday afternoon. Above all else "Ed" was an enthusiast. He loved motor racing and F1 News was kept going for many years by his enthusiasm for the job and his belief that motor racing should always be fun. F1 News was the one magazine that was happy to poke fun at anyone. And in the F1 paddock it was widely read. Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone would often ring Derek for a chat, in between doing his multi million dollar deals. His enthusiasm for the sport meant that in the paddock Derek had few enemies.
His father was a motor cycle racer at Brooklands and in his late teens Derek began racing 250cc motorbikes. He then tried his hand at four wheels, realizing after six races that he did not have what it takes to be a racer. This flash of self-revelation came when he was sliding upside-down through a chicane at Thruxton.
He began to study psychology but left before he graduated to become a freelance journalist, writing for the infamous British satirical magazine Private Eye. This did not pay well enough and so he landed a job with his cousin who worked as a special effects man at Britain's Pinewood Studios - and who has since won three Oscars. This led to a job in the Script Unit at Pinewood. This did not pay very well and eventually Derek decided to get a "proper" job and began writing safety manuals for a fire protection company.
He was a regular spectator at motor racing events around the world. Eventually he realized that he wanted a better job and wanted to continue watching races and so he started a series of businesses to pay for his hobby. His jobs included being a freelance advertising copywriter, a retail newsagent, a travel agent, a pornographer, a gas station owner and an international purchasing agent. Derek did most things at some point or other and although he was rarely serious for very long, he was a wise man in the sometimes mad world of Grand Prix racing. He was also a party animal, burning the candle at both ends - and in the middle.
He was working in advertising when he was approached by a company which wanted to start a magazine about the World Sportscar Championship. The idea was rejected but Derek realized that such an idea might work with F1, the only branch of the sport capable of supporting a dedicated, mass circulation publication.
The aim was to have a fun magazine to inform and make people laugh and F1 News quickly picked up readers with its caustic humor and inside information. Originally treated as a comic book, the magazine commands respect from the F1 community. For the last year Derek had been undergoing treatment for cancer. The magazine was sold last autumn but Derek stayed on as editor. Ironically his death came from a heart attack.
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