Alain de Cadenet  1945–2022

The Guild is saddened to report the passing of our member Alain de Cadenet on 2nd July at the age of 76, after a long battle with cancer.

Alain was a highly talented international racing driver and race team owner who found an equal passion and talent in the written word and behind the microphone. He took race victories in the World Championship for Makes and competed 14 times in the Le Mans 24 Hours between 1971 and 1986, seven of these behind the wheel of his own De Cadenet Lola. His best result was third overall in 1976, ahead of works entries from the likes of Porsche and BMW.

Retiring from motorsport he found a new passion as a TV presenter and writer, hosting numerous programmes for the Speed Channel, ESPN and others. He also experienced an early example of ‘going viral’ when during a piece to camera he was surprised by a very low-flying Spitfire (The clip can be viewed here).

Classic & Sports Car magazine, for whom Alain wrote a regular column, penned a tribute on social media, commenting; “Alain’s stories in person, on stage and in his regular columns were always hugely entertaining, reflecting a life lived at the sharp end – and often on a shoestring – during a golden era of motorsport.”

Guild member Andrew Marriott, writing for Motor Sport, described Alain as “quite simply a one-off, a man of intellect, humour and a brilliant communicator. That’s before you get into his cavalier career as a racing driver and later team owner … then add the fact that he flew a Supermarine Spitfire and, along with HM the Queen, owned the finest collection of King George postage stamps.”

In his book The British at Le Mans Guild member Ian Wagstaff asked “Can anyone at Le Mans have been more British than Alain de Cadenet?” and added that “however serious his intent, it was always important to Alain that Le Mans should be fun.”

Guild President Nick Mason raced at Le Mans in the same period as Alain and considered him a dear friend. Nick penned the following tribute;

“I had always perceived Alain as indestructible – particularly after a horrific motorcycle accident in the USA some years ago – so despite knowing that he had been ill, I was devastated to hear that he was gone. Truly a unique and wonderful personality, the world has to be a poorer place without him.

“What I will particularly miss is his overwhelming generosity of spirit. He shared his passion and deep knowledge of motor cars and motorsport with everyone he met.

“He was also a committed and talented racer himself, and was more than happy to become a mentor to any would-be competitor. I certainly benefited enormously from his support, as did my family. In 1979 he taught me the way round the Le Mans circuit, and in later years did the same for both my wife and daughters.

“It was there that I overheard DeCad in conversation with the Queen Mother, who was paying a brief visit to the circuit. She enquired what happened if it started to rain during the race? Alain put on his rarely used serious expression, and explained that one would immediately drive in to the pits and put a Frenchman in the car…”

Andrew Charman       Photo by Jeff Bloxham