Published: 00:01, 06 May 2014
The partner of a leading former Formula One engineer killed by a lorry on the M20 near Ashford has paid tribute to his passion, energy and devotion to their daughter.
Ash Naidoo told how the death of ex-Ferrari chief mechanic Nigel Stepney on Friday has "left a void in our lives that will never be filled".
Mr Stepney, who enjoyed a lengthy F1 career and helped guide Michael Schumacher to five world championships, was hit by an HGV after getting out of a van on the hard shoulder of the London-bound carriageway between junctions 10 and nine.
The 56-year-old "devoted" father - who also leaves children Laura, Cassandra and Joshua from a previous relationship - died at the scene.
Police are investigating why he walked out into the road after getting out of a silver VW van before being struck at just before 1.30am.
Now his long-term partner Ash, mother to the couple's seven-year-old daughter Sabine, has described him as a "wonderful" father, who was warm, funny and full of energy.
"Nigel was a wonderful partner and a hands-on dad who was besotted with his daughter who idolised him in return..." - Nigel Stepney's partner Ash Naidoo
"Nigel was wonderful to know, larger than life and full of energy," she said in a statement to the East Anglian Daily Times. "Motor sport was his passion topped only by his love and devotion to Sabine and me.
"Nigel was a wonderful partner and a hands-on dad who was besotted with his daughter who idolised him in return.
"They loved each other's company and Sabine was his shadow; delighting in helping him around the garage at race meetings. Even if Nigel had to be away from home, he would telephone her every day.
"Nigel and I had 10 wonderful years together. The first things I noticed about him when we met in Australia were how warm, funny and easy to talk to he was. He was also very persistent.
"Nigel did everything with a passion. He adored Italy and spoke fluent Italian, he loved wine, Manchester United, cycling and doing anything on water, but most of all he was devoted to our daughter Sabine.
"To see this big, talented, engaging man so besotted with her was wonderful.
"Nigel's death has left a void in our lives that will never be filled. This is a terrible time and I am so grateful for the love and support of our family and friends and Nigel’s colleagues from the world of motor sport."
And Mr Stepney's daughter Cassandra Stepney told KentOnline: "He will be sadly missed by all that knew and loved him - we just wish we had more time to get to know our father."
Mr Stepney, from Essex, had a long career in F1, working for Shadow, Lotus, Benetton and Ferrari.
But he was sentenced to 20 months in prison in Italy after being found guilty of sabotage, industrial espionage and sporting fraud as part of the "spy-gate" scandal.
Mr Stepney had leaked almost 800 pages of confidential Ferrari information to McLaren ahead of the 2007 season. He did not serve the sentence, but lost his job and never worked in F1 again.
He most recently worked with sports cars when he joined the JRM outfit in 2010 as racing team manager and technical director.
JRM owner James Rumsey described Mr Stepney as "an intense and fierce competitor".
Anyone who witnessed the incident on the M20 is asked to phone the Kent Police serious collision investigation unit on 01622 798538.
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