Popular Coventry Speedway 'giant' dies as riders and friends pay tribute

John Clarke (left) was a popular figure for the Coventry Speedway community
John Clarke (left) was a popular figure with the Coventry Speedway community -Credit:@KeepBeesonTrack/X

A 'giant' of the Coventry Speedway community has died. John Clarke, who was a long-term Coventry Bees sponsor, died on Sunday, April 20 at the age of 69.

Tributes have poured in from speedway followers. And people say the 'generous-hearted man' will be 'sorely missed'.

In a tribute on the Coventry Speedway website, the team said: "We want to send all of our condolences and best wishes to his wife Jan and the rest of the family and assure them that very few individuals who never actually raced a bike made the level of contribution that John did to Coventry Speedway."

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John - or 'Big John' as he was to many - was the public face of the Bees' main team sponsorship deal with Buildbase, which ran for 13 years between 2004 and 2016. Friends say he never missed a home meeting at Brandon Stadium and did everything he could to entertain guests and introduce new people to the sport.

Speedway colleagues say he played a huge role in the successful atmosphere at the club, particularly in the golden era of the mid-to-late 2000s when the Bees won three Elite League titles. Since the forced closure of Brandon Stadium in 2016, he had been the driving force for the campaign group to help save the venue - a move that recently saw a demolition plan rejected.

After retiring from Buildbase, John played a key role in the deal that saw Peterborough secure title sponsorship with Crendon Timber Engineering from 2019-2023. He later took up his previous Coventry role at the East of England Arena as the Panthers enjoyed their title glory in 2021 with their famous ‘Dad’s Army’ line-up including the likes of Chris Harris, Scott Nicholls, and Hans Andersen

Riders of the group say that everything he did was delivered with 'sincerity, generosity, and good humour' and 'our meetings will certainly not be the same without him'. People have written tributes on their Facebook page to commemorate John.

Steve Jones said: "'Big John' was a giant in all respects. A generous big-hearted man, with a great sense of humour and a finely tuned and astute business brain, which was also put to good use during the many campaign group meetings that he attended.

"When Brandon Stadium was forced to close its doors in 2016 it was John who told us to 'keep the faith'. You will be sorely missed, Big John."

Paul Mcnees said: "A great supporter of the cause and the sport as a whole. Sincere condolences to his family and friends at this sad time."

Martin Mewies added: "RIP big John, sadly missed by all who knew him. Smashing bloke."

John's funeral will take place at Canley Crematorium on Wednesday, May 15 at 11.15am.

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