Sudden death of well-known rally and bike scrutineer Chris

in Motorsport

Chris Rowe, a man heavily involved in many forms of motorsport, died suddenly last week after a fall at home, possibly caused by a stroke.

’Skid’ Rowe, as he was commonly known, moved to the island from Cornwall in 1972 with his wife Frances and young family.

Chris never lost his strong Cornish accent, nor for that matter, has Fran.

Their daughter, Stella, was a keen hockey player, playing to a good standard locally before moving off-island to the south of England when she got married a number of years ago.

Her brother, Martin, was only nine months old when the family migrated to the island (he was actually born in Plymouth) and was only seven or eight years of age when his father bought him his first motorbike.

Martin became a leading local schoolboy trials rider, then briefly an enduro competitor in his late teens before switching his focus to four wheels.

Chris, no mean trials rider himself in Vintage MCC events, fettled and prepared an ultra-reliable 1.6 litre Peugeot 205 that Martin used to great effect to win the UK Peugeot Challenge series.

That led to a drive in the Shell Challenge Ford Escort Cosworth, during which time he won his home National in 1993 with Chris Wood.

Other good drives with Peugeot and Volkswagen led to a full factory contract in the Renault Megane.

Martin made his father, in particular, extremely proud by not only winning the Manx International Rally three years back-to-back in 1997, 1998 and 1999 with Derek Ringer, but also the full British title in 1998. He won the Formula Rally Championship in 2001, driving a Ford Puma S1600, the Production World Rally Championship in 2003 with a Dave Sutton Motorsport Subaru Impreza (later also named National Rally Driver of the Year) and the Chinese Rally Championship in 2006.

Although having lived in Canada for the past decade, Martin continues to rally at a good level, last year competing in China with a Misubishi Evo.

Described by former leading local rally driver Nigel Cannell this week as a total grafter, Chris worked hard in his day job, and would then return home to work on Martin’s car, bike, his own bevy of bikes or numerous motorised restoration projects for other people.

In addition to his own CMR Engineering, he worked for the DOI at Ellerslie and Poortown for many years, then more latterly for Kirby Estates and Tours (Isle of Man) on plant machinery and coaches.

Having recovered from a heart attack about three years ago, he was still working until very recently.

His professional skills also made him a highly-qualified and respected scrutineer for the TT, Manx Grand Prix and local rallies.

He was chief scrutineer at the Manx GP, deputy chief for the TT and is thought to have been the island’s first FIM-qualified technical official.

Chris reached a similar level in motorsport, officiating at the Manx National and International rallies in addition to local club events.

He was scheduled to go for a pre-medical for a forthcoming shoulder operation last week (after which his plan was to head out to Canada to visit Martin and the family later this year), but collapsed at home and banged his head in the fall. It is possible that he had suffered a stroke.

He then spent three days in Noble’s Hospital before sadly passing away on Saturday. He is thought to have been 72.

Condolences go to his family, in particular Stella and Martin, and twins Paul and Mika (to his second wife Jo). Chris was also a grandfather of three.

l A service to celebrate Chris’s life will take place at Douglas Crematorium on Wednesday, February 22 at 2pm, preceded by a lap of the TT Course from the Grandstand at 12.45pm. Donations in lieu of flowers please to Isle of Man Sport Aid Foundation, Groves Road, Douglas.

John Watterson

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