Kieth Odor, born in Sailsbury on the 5th April 1962, won his first motor racing championship in 1989, becoming British Production Saloon Car Champion in his Ford Sierra.
Kieth, however, had racing roots from much further back than that. Unusually, he began his career in rallying, before switching to track racing in 1987.
His association with Nissan would start in 1990, winning the Group N Production Championship in a Skyline prepared by Janspeed, the engineering company founded by Kieth’s father, János (Jan) Ódor. He dominated the season, taking 9 wins and 10 lap records on his way to the championship title.
Janspeed was founded in October 1962 and after developing their relationship with Nissan, took the Japanese marque into the BTCC in 1991, Kieth driving the sole Nissan Primera and developing it into a regular point scorer.
The team became a two car operation by the end of 1991, with F1 refugee Julian Bailey joining Kieth for the final three meetings of the season.
For 1992, Kieth was joined by Andy Middlehurst, who was replaced with James Weaver for the final two meetings. Kieth comfortably beat both, with Nissan finishing 4th in the manufacturer’s championship. The car was getting increasingly competitive and things were looking good for 1993.
At the end of the 1992 season, Nissan and Janspeed took part in the TOCA Shootout at Donington Park, a non-championship event. Kieth’s infamous barrel roll at the event wrote off the car and is one of the most of the most shocking shunts in the Super Touring era of the BTCC.
1993 saw Keith’s most competitive BTCC season, which included his first podium finishes and his first BTCC win. Keith was joined at Nissan by former champion Win Percy & a third car was introduced at selected meetings for Top Gear presenter, Tiff Needell.
The car was immediately on the pace & it wasn’t long before Keith found himself on the BTCC rostrum for the first time. He took a double podium at the Brands Hatch double header, finishing 2nd in both races, before going one better at the British GP Support race at Silverstone, taking Nissan’s first BTCC victory in a 1-2 finish with team mate, Win Percy.
By the end of the season, Kieth finished 6th in the championship, scoring more than double the points of either of his team mates.
Things were looking good for 1994, but sadly the Nissan’s regressed and throughout the season, Kieth was involved in a huge amount of bad luck, seemingly always in the wrong place at the wrong time & getting caught up in other people’s incidents.
After only scoring a handful of points during the season, Nissan decided to call time on the BTCC programme, leaving Kieth without a drive in the series. Remaining with the Nissan marque, Kieth switched to the German ADAC Super Tourenwagen Cup, driving for the Nissan backed BMS Scuderia Italia in a year-old Primera.
Although the Nissan was not the most competitive car, Kieth was a regular top ten finisher and had the measure of his team mates, Ivan Capelli and Sascha Maassen. Audi’s Hans-Joachim Stuck stated that Nissan had made their best move by bringing Kieth into the programme.
He scored his and Nissan’s first victory in the championship at first race of the double header meeting at AVUS, defeating eventual champion Joachim Winkelhock’s BMW. It was a dominant performance, Kieth converting pole into a the win.
In the second race, Kieth was running third behind Winkelhock and Peter Kox when he clipped the barriers and spun, his damaged car remained stationary in the middle of the track before it was struck at 118mph, leaving Kieth fatally injured.
Kieth was removed from the car & airlifted to hospital in Berlin, but sadly passed away in the early hours of the following morning. BMS Scuderia Italia and Nissan withdraw from the remaining rounds of the championship following Kieth’s untimely death.
Nissan’s first STW win should have been a turning-point in Kieth’s racing career. Instead, it will be a bitter-sweet tribute to the shy man from Salisbury.