A warm thought for a cold winter

Gunnar Nilsson is a name that will not be known by the young fans of Formula 1. Nilsson was a Swedish racing driver born in 1948 who became one of the stars of British Formula 3 in the early 1970s and in 1976 was signed by Team Lotus to race in Formula 1. He was team mate to Mario Andretti and learned from the great American driver and in 1977 he won the rain-soaked Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, underlining his potential as a star of the future. Alas, within months Nilsson was struck by testicular cancer and although he signed to drive for the new Arrows F1 team in 1978 he was not well enough to take up the drive and he died in the autumn of 1978. After his death his mother Elisabeth Nilsson founded the Gunnar Nilsson's Cancer Foundation with the aim of supporting education and research in cancer and to support treatment and care of cancer patients.

Elisabeth Nilsson was a formidable woman. A Dane, she married property developer Arvid Nilsson after World War II and she was soon running the real estate empire that belonged to his company. Arvid died when Gunnar was 15 but she continued to run the real estate business and built it into a considerable company. Her intention was to hand over her entire fortune to the foundation when she died but in 1989 she decided to act immediately and signed everything over to the foundation. She died two years later. The Gunnar Nilsson Foundation makes grants every year in its efforts to beat cancer and in 2005 the board of five doctors, one financial and one legal adviser donated around $300,000 to scientists who had applied for grants for cancer research work.

The name of Gunnar Nilsson has not been forgotten.

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