HOWARD Strawford, the man who rescued the Castle Combe circuit from oblivion and built it in to the most successful venue of its kind, has died aged 77.

Strawford passed away in the early hours of Saturday morning, following a stroke.

Strawford, who was presented with a Lifetime Achievement award from the Motor Sport Association - one of the highest accolades in this country's motorsport - in 2010, purchased the circuit in 1976, and with his wife Pat in support, saved it from closure, going on to secure its future.

His first introduction to motor sport was in 1952 via the Welsh Motor Racing Club, which ran events at Fairwood.

He later competed in sprints and hillclimbs, first in a Morgan 4/4 and started organising events with the Swansea Motor Club and later became chairman of the club.

A founder member of the Welsh Association of Motor Clubs and later an RAC Steward, often at the Llandow circuit, in 1967, his career took him to work in Bristol for Kraft Foods and he soon started visiting Castle Combe where he quickly became an RAC or club steward at race meetings.

By the end of the 1960s, Strawford was increasingly involved in the running of Castle Combe as competition secretary of the South Western Centre of the BRSCC (British Racing & Sports Car Club).

With 1971 scheduled to be the final season at the circuit, Strawford set about keeping it open and eventually took control of the venue.

Since then, the Strawfords and their team took Combe from a venue on the brink of closure with a turnover of £15,000 a year and employing one person part-time to cut the grass to an operation which employed 20 people full time and in excess of 100 part-time, with a turnover for the group of more than £1.5 million.

He also spent nearly two decades as chairman of the BRSCC and later created the highly-successful Castle Combe Racing Club.

A Castle Combe statement said: "Howard took the brave decision to purchase the circuit in 1976, and with his stalwart wife Pat providing constant support and encouragement, saved it from closure, going on to secure its future for the pleasure and satisfaction of innumerable drivers, riders, employees and spectators.

"The rich legacy of motorsport created by Howard will continue for the benefit of motorsport enthusiasts both locally, nationally and internationally.''