Essex: F1 Ferrari engineer Nigel Stepney killed in crash on M20 in Kent
09:10 05 May 2014
A grieving north-Essex family last night paid tribute to a “devoted” father-of-one and former top Formula One engineer killed in a motorway accident.
Ex-Ferrari chief mechanic Nigel Stepney, who enjoyed a lengthy career in F1, died after being involved in a collision with a lorry on the M20 near Ashford in Kent on Friday morning.
The 56-year-old was part of the hugely successful team at Ferrari which dominated the sport in the early 2000s, but found himself at the centre of a F1 “spygate” scandal. He lost his job after being accused of sabotage and leaking confidential data to McLaren in 2007.
Speaking from her north-Essex home, Mr Stepney’s long-term partner, Ash Naidoo, mother of the couple’s seven-year-old daughter Sabine, paid tribute to his passion, energy and devotion to his daughter.
In a statement, she said: “Nigel was wonderful to know, larger than life and full of energy. Motor sport was his passion topped only by his love and devotion to Sabine and me.
“Nigel was a wonderful partner and a hands-on dad who was besotted with his daughter who idolized him in return.
“They loved each other’s company and Sabine was his shadow; delighting in helping him around the garage at race meetings. Even if Nigel had to be away from home, he would telephone her every day.
“Nigel and I had 10 wonderful years together. The first things I noticed about him when we met in Australia were how warm, funny and easy to talk to he was. He was also very persistent.
“Nigel did everything with a passion. He adored Italy and spoke fluent Italian, he loved wine, Manchester United, cycling and doing anything on water, but most of all he was devoted to our daughter Sabine.
“To see this big, talented, engaging man so besotted with her was wonderful.
“Nigel’s death has left a void in our lives that will never be filled. This is a terrible time and I am so grateful for the love and support of our family and friends and Nigel’s colleagues from the world of motor sport, especially JRM.”
Mr Stepney’s career in Formula One included working with world champions Ayrton Senna – who died during a Grand Prix 20 years ago on Thursday – at Lotus and Michael Schumacher at Ferrari.
Stepney left F1 behind to pursue a new career in the world of sports cars where he found renewed success.
Four years ago he joined Northamptonshire-based JRM as racing team manager and technical director.
James Rumsey, the owner of JRM, said Mr Stepney had “brought a level of engineering experience to us that was unrivalled”.
He said: “A man that engineered Ayrton Senna at Lotus and helped to guide Michael Schumacher to five Formula One World Championships with Ferrari was the perfect candidate to establish JRM as a serious team in circuit-based motorsport and the role that he played in achieving that standard will never be underestimated or forgotten.
“Nigel was an intense and fierce competitor and always strived for excellence.”
Mr Stepney also worked for Shadow, and Benetton during his career.
Kent Police said: “A silver VW caddy van, driven by a 56 year-old man from the Essex area, had stopped on the hard shoulder of the M20 London-bound carriageway at Ashford.
“For reasons yet to be established, the man appears to have entered the carriageway and was then in collision with an articulated goods vehicle. He was pronounced deceased at the scene.”