Our dear friend and fierce rally competitor, Dessie Nutt, has passed away at the age of 70. In the mid-1990s, after twenty years of rallying cars including a Vauxhall Magnum and Mini Cooper S, Dessie asked us to prepare a 2-litre Porsche 911 to take on the British Historic Rally Championship. Francis built him a quick and agile short wheelbase car, which Dessie debuted in 1995 and thereafter put to very effective use.
In 1996, Dessie took five class podiums from seven rallies. The following year, he took four overall wins on five rallies, finishing just off the podium in the fifth event. 1997 was another successful year, with three class wins and five podiums from six events.
A GP from Castlerock in Country Derry, Dr Dessie became a multiple champion in the British Historic Rally Championship, and won countless historic rallies across the UK and Europe. He was also successful south of the border, taking many wins on both the Killarney and Donegal historic rallies and enjoying considerable success on the Circuit of Ireland.
“Dessie Nutt was possibly the greatest ambassador for historic rallying the UK has ever known,” said Richard Tuthill. “As someone who was involved from the very beginning, his success was dwarfed only by his character as a brilliant man, whose love for the sport will never be eclipsed. We grew and learned with him and owe much of our early recognition to his spirit and success.
“Having built Dessie’s yellow short wheelbase Porsche 911, we were proud to see it carry Dessie to a huge number of rally and championship wins in the UK, Ireland and further afield. Away from the stages, Dessie had so much fun and good humour that he could keep crowds of people entertained, often for weeks at a time in his role as our team doctor on the East African Safari Classic Rally.
“Dessie was on the first trip to Sweden with me for our Below Zero Ice Driving experience. His enthusiasm and driving progression on that trip absolutely confirmed that it served a real purpose, which is to have fun, enjoy driving and spend time with great people. This is how I will remember him; a real one-off and a true rallying gentleman, who will be sorely missed.”
Dessie hung up his driving gloves in 2019, but continued his competition career as navigator for son, Michael. Perhaps the last word should go to the man himself, who, when asked to define historic rallying’s appeal after winning the 2004 British Historic Rally Championship had this to say:
“I think it’s lovely that people like us can do a historic championship like this and be competitive. There is no development work to do and the car is not worth significantly less than it was at the start of the season. That’s a real bonus and that’s what makes it affordable. Everyone helps everybody else and the atmosphere is great. And ten miles of Tarmac is better than a night with any girl!”
We will miss you, Dessie. Our sincere condolences to all of Dessie’s family and friends.
Photos of Dessie by Lawrence Clift and Roy Dempster