I was saddened to learn of the death of Southend restaurateur Tony Tomassi.

It is important to recall his involvement in motor sport and his vigour in assisting the founding of the Thames Estuary Auto Club, in the early Sixties, together with the late Sid Offord, a restauranteur of the also famous Offredi family, and the late Doug Price, of Price’s Garage, Leigh .

Originally, the club used to meet at the Shepherd and Dog pub, in Canewdon. Thanks to Tony and Sid, it was possible for it to take over the Sandpiper restaurant, on Eastern Esplanade, as a dedicated clubhouse.

The rear yard and store were also useful for housing the club’s Land Rover and the legion of fire extinguishers, marker cones, flags and other impedimenta essential for running competitive events, which included race meetings at Brands Hatch.

With Tony and Sid’s professional eyes and skills, the food served at concessionary prices was excellent, too, and helped to defray club costs.

All but forgotten now, the club ran very well supported race meetings, offering participating races in national championships, becoming perhaps the premier motor sports club in South East England. The club’s abilities at organisation resulted in commercial TV asking it to run a regular televised Saturday rallycross event, sponsored by W D and H O Wills, the tobacco company.

Without Tony’s energy, passion and enthusiasm, none of this would have occurred. And all this was in his spare time, as he built his family business into the landmark restaurant still popular today.

Unfortunately, the club seemed to wither, lacking Tony and Sid’s energy and commitment. Just as motor sport grew into the multi-billion pound business of today, it became just another social club.

He will be sadly missed.

Michael Feltham

Picasso Way