A Honda test driver was killed and four colleagues injured when a car they were testing crashed at a leading European centre for trialling new vehicles.
David Allan, an experienced touring car competitor, was testing the vehicle on Tuesday on a track also used by BBC show Top Gear.
The 47-year-old, of Swindon, was pronounced dead at the scene at the Millbrook proving ground, near Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire.
His colleagues were still in hospital yesterday with injuries not said to be life-threatening.
An employee at Honda’s Swindon plant said: “Everyone is utterly devastated. We found out about the news late on Tuesday afternoon and we are all in a state of shock.
“Testing of new cars is a dream job which takes people all over Europe. Dave was also a highly experienced professional who had raced the Civic for many years.
“You don’t expect anyone to be hurt, let alone die. We are just lost for words.”
The accident happened at around 11.30am during routine vehicle testing at the ground, used by TV shows including Top Gear, Fifth Gear and the James Bond film Casino Royale. Only one car was involved. Collision investigation officers from the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Roads Policing Unit carried out a forensic investigation at the scene, assisted by the Health and Safety Executive.
A spokesman for the car giant said: “Five Honda associates were involved in a serious incident. Tragically one of the associates was fatally injured.
“The remaining associates were taken to the local hospital where they were treated for various injuries, which are not life-threatening.
“The families of the associates have been informed.Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the associates at this time.”
The company said more details would be released once an inquest had been opened by the coroner.
Mr Allan was part of a Honda team which competed in the British Touring Car Championship in 2002. He drove the Production Class Honda Civic Type R.
The driver also competed in an event at Castle Combe in 2009, where he reported that the road motor in his Civic was better than the racing version.
He was a key member of Synchro motorsport, formed in 1994 for Honda employees to develop their technical skills.
The team consists of members of staff from the plant in South Marston.
Mr Allan also competed in the Dunlop Production GTN Championship at Castle Combe last July, driving the Honda Jazz.
Grant Larking, owner of sponsor Advanced Sign Factory, said: “We have sponsored the team for nearly 10 years.
“We had just finished putting the livery on a new car for this year with Dave’s name on it.
“We just can’t believe what’s happened and our thoughts go out to his family, friends and colleagues.”
Honda regularly uses Millbrook, which is one of Europe’s leading locations for the development, test and demonstration of land vehicles ranging from sports cars to armoured personnel carriers. Modelled on the Milford Proving Ground, in Michigan, USA, the 700-acre site was constructed in the 1960s by Vauxhall Motors.
Commercial vehicles are rigorously tested and analysed on a variety of surfaces and in a range of different conditions.
Honda launched its CR-V cross-road model at the site in December 2006, ending the show with Asiino, its humanoid robot. Millbrook also offers advanced driver training.
A spokesman for Bedfordshire police said: “Collision investigation officers from the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Roads Policing Unit have carried out a full forensic examination of the scene and are being assisted by the Health and Safety Executive. Colleagues from the East of England Ambulance Service and Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service also attended.”