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HEATHER WATSON

PERSONAL/WORK HISTORY

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books:

'IN CONTROL' - my autobiography

'DUNKO' - a biography of Ross Dunkerton

'PHILLIP ISLAND TO FANGIO'

other articles:

Round Australia Trials

Marathons

Red Centre to Gold Coast Trial

Historic Rally Association

CAMS

Victorian Historic Racing Register

Light Car Club of Australia

Funny Place Names

Noticeboard

March, 2020


To my great shame I have discovered that the Noticeboard has not been updated since 2015. Disgraceful! So what has been happening since then?. To put it briefly – lots. I have written three more books: the history of the Bentley owners club in conjunction with Dr Clare Hay, world expert on the marque. This book has been published as a coffee table book, mainly for Bentley Drivers Club members. The book was awarded Book of the Month by the UK magazine Octane.

The others have been the history of my first car club, the Austin Seven Club of Victoria, titled Going Strong. This was followed by writing the biography of one of the greatest contributors to Australian motor sport, Graham Hoinville titled Graham Hoinville – my life in Motor Sport.

It was a pleasure to write both of these books, going back to my motor sport roots with an Austin Seven and meeting up with many of the club members I knew from the 1950s. Graham Hoinville and I have been friends for over 50 years and it was very special to spend time with him reminiscing and recording his motor sport life. These books are available through the web sites of the respective car clubs, the Austin Seven Club and the Victorian Historic Racing Register.

In June 2016 I drove to Alice Springs to be an official on Philip Bernadou’s Classic Outback Trial. Dave Johnson was to come along so that we could continue our partnership as Rally Officials of the Universe, but unfortunately (in a way) he had to drop out. I arrived alone in Alice confident that I would find someone to team up with, and indeed that was the case. Jenny Cuthbert, whom I had known since her late husband Glenn acted as my road planning official for the 1995 Mobil 1 Trial, was also alone and we were paired up.

Romance blossomed, and we have since been married. At my advanced time of life and after the passing of the wonderful Heather I never expected to have another woman to share my life with. I am very fortunate.

This interlude was temporarily put on hold as I had planned another boy’s trip overseas with Tim Kennon, Peter Gillitzer and Gerry Bashford to France to see the Classic Le Mans race meeting and the French National motor museum, which houses the fabulous Schlumpf collection of Bugattis as well as some ot the world’s most beautiful cars. If you like fine motor cars, see this before you die.

We also included the Normandy beaches, a great car museum at Loheac, some serious food and wine tasting in Burgundy and Champagne and a lap of the Nurburgring. Our lap time in a fully laden Renault Scenic wagon will stand as a bench mark for all tourists for years to come.
In late 2016 I organised a touring road event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Southern Cross Rally, with Graham Wallis doing his usual fabulous job of finding great roads and organising closed road stages, circuits, hillclimbs and autocross tracks. It was a great event, finishing at Coffs Harbour where the cars in the Southern Cross Anniversary Rally competed on some of the stages of Rally Australia, the world rally championship event being held there.

A live TV cross to Scotland to speak to five times Southern Cross Rally winner Andrew Cowan worked very well at the Sydney dinner which was a great buzz for the audience.
This brings us to 2017, another busy year, but before that, something totally unexpected happened over the Christmas period. I saw an email from the Renault car Club mentioning that the great Jim Richards was selling a Renault Clio RS200.

I always thought that would be the car I would buy if I ever sold my beloved 1970 Porsche 911S 2.2, which I had owned for 35 years. Hmmm.

I had a long standing agreement with a family friend Matt Hamilton that if I was ever considering selling the Porsche he would have first option. I gave him a call, and he arrived post haste. Within an hour the deal was done and after checking the car’s credentials for originality, he bought it. It made me sad, but the funds would maybe fund a few more overseas trips, so – c’est la vie!. Matt is thoroughly enjoying the car and I am sure he has a sound long term investment.

Jenny and I were by now in a secure loving relationship, and doing everything together. In February I was invited to be guest of honour at the opening of the Rallycross track at Raleigh Park at Coffs Harbour, so we took the Clio for a pleasant drive to do that. Then in late April we took my ageing camper trailer to the Flinders Ranges to show Jenny around one of my favourite parts of Australia.
We went to New Zealand in May to spectate at the Otago Rally on a Darryn Snooks tour which is always great fun. Then, so we wouldn’t get bored, we had our own private visit to France for a month. From Charles de Gaulle airport we went straight to Monet’s garden. The famous painter lived in a house with the most wonderful garden, with a beautiful lake and every kind of plant and flower imaginable. En route to Paris we visited Versailles and Fontainbleu, both spectacular examples of French Imperial splendour.

Form Paris we headed south through the Loire Valley visiting a few famous chateaus en route and spending four days in one of my favourite French towns, Sarlat in the Dordogne. A wonderful place, full of history and hosting a weekly market which attracts thousands of people. This is the region of Pate de Foie Gras and great wines so the eating and drinking was pretty special.
We then went east via the wonderful bridge over the Tarn valley at Millau to Mont Ventoux and the spectacular Grand Canyon of Verdon, spending a delightful few days in Moustieres Saint Marie. Further towards the Italian border we visited the Cote D’Azur, Monaco and the hilltop village of Eze, perched high above Monte Carlo.

A nice drive along the Mediterranean coast took us to the fortified village of Carcassonne, and then on to Barcelona in Spain. Top priority is of course the spectacular La Sagrada Familia cathedral designed by the brilliant but eccentric architect Gaudi. Barcelona is a great place and we enjoyed our few days there before flying home.

In July we took the camper to Queensland for ten days to escape the chills of winter in Melbourne.
On the motor sport side I have kept the Renault R16TS that I bought to do the State Bank Discovery Trial re-run, and have run in a few HRA events. For a $1000 investment the car has given a lot of fun. And of course 2017 was an Alpine year, so something needed to be arranged. I wanted to buy a Datsun Sunny that my old friend Gerry Crown was running in the Southern Cross Anniversary event, but he did not want to sell it. Instead he offered to loan it to me for the Alpine.

This meant a trip to Sydney to pick up the car so Jenny and I enjoyed Gerry and Lyn Crown’s superb hospitality for couple of nights. The Datsun was prepared by Matt Bryson, son of an old rally colleague John Bryson and successful preparer of Gerry Crown’s Peking to Paris winning Leyland P76. Gerry Bashford was my co-driver and although we suffered from being way back in the field and having to cope with badly damaged wet roads, we managed to complete the event, my 23rd Alpine and Gerry’s 8th.

Gerry Bashford and I have also competed in a number of Targa tarmac rallies, entered in the time speed distance category, which is becoming very popular . Gerry’s Escort Mexico suffered engine problems in an earlier event, so we were in his Mazda MX5, thoroughly enjoying some great topless mountain motoring. Gerry is an excellent driver and I really enjoy events with him.
Sadly the last few years have seen many long time friends pass away. Malcolm Preston, Steve Ashton, Ken Nancarrow, Brian (Brique) Reed, Jack Ellis, Chris DeFraga, Judy Bonhomme, Ian Home, Don Kinsey, John Quayle, Trevor Cole, Bill Tuckey, Philip Meiklejohn. As each person passes it leaves a void in life that is impossible to fill.

2018 started quietly, but a trip to Sydney to return Gerry Crown’s Datsun rally car was made more enjoyable by a stayover with my old friend Dave Johnson and Natalie. It was a double header, as we brought an early Cortina back to Melbourne for Ted Perkins. Mid February Jenny and I went to Tasmania to enjoy the delights of the Salamanca Place market, the Museum of Old and New art (MONA) and a trip to Bruny Island.

The bi-monthly lunches at Chris DeFraga’s Kingston Hotel in Richmond have been going for many years now, and are always enjoyable and a great occasion to keep in touch with friends, and Monday lunch at Jimmy Watson’s wine bar in Lygon street gives that group (Tim Kennon, Peter Gillitzer, James Smith, Ray Borrett, Alan Coleman, Allan Watson, Russell Stuckey, Jim McKeown, Gerry Bashford and others) a chance to solve the world’s problems on a weekly basis.

That brings us up to date. In the near future is a trip for Jenny and I to Sicily and Italy, and a sentimental return to Alice Springs for the Classic Outback Trial, the place where our relationship started in 2016. An extended outback trip to the Tanami track, Bungle Bungles, Kununurra, Katherine and Queensland will help us avoid another Melbourne winter.

 

May, 2015

In early March I suffered a big personal blow when my lovely dog Stella had to be put to sleep. We had been together for 14 years, and after Heather died she was my best friend. Very sad. She had been on many rallies and outback trips over the years, so for a Schnauzer I guess she had a pretty full life..



Another big honour - CAMS Life MembershipIn February 20125 I received another great honour from CAMS; Life Membership. I received the award from CAMS President Andrew Papadopolous at the annual CAMS awards night in Sydney. Others to be awarded CAMS life membership on the night were Fred Gibson and John Paterson. Previous Life memberships have been awarded to Larry Perkins, Dick Johnson, Colin Bond and Ross Dunkerton, so I am very honoured to be placed in such esteemed company.

On the night I was on the same table as Jack Brabham’s famous partner Ron Tauranac. Ron is getting on, but is very entertaining to talk to and mentally sharp – much as Harry Firth was in his later years. When Ron went on to the stage to receive his award, the Jack Brabham Trophy, he said “I am pretty good at building racing cars, I have built 1500 of them, but I am not much good at talking”, and then left the stage. The audience loved it. 2015 is another busy year. In mid March I travelled with two good mates, Graham Smith and Ray Borrett to Lake Gairdner in South Australia to see the Dry Lake Racer’s Association annual meeting. Lake Gairdner is a salt lake about 200 kms from Port Augusta and every year (lake surface permitting) people bring all manner of vehicles, on both two and four wheels, to attempt to set speed records. Conditions are fairly primitive, but it was interesting to see the variety of cars and motorcycles competing. They have a 15 km stretch of straight flat salt lake to play in, and some vehicles are reaching speeds of 300 Miles per hour.

 

Looking ahead this year, I am going to New Zealand again in May to spectate on the Otago Rally, always a good fun trip. Then in August I am competing in the HRA’s re-run of the State Bank Discovery Trial, an event run in the 1980s in the outback of South Australia. I have purchased a car specially for the rally, a Renault R16 TS. The car was built by enthusiast Steve Magner as a replica of the car in which Jim McAuliffe and I won the 1969 Victorian Rally Championship, complete with Walton’s Rally Team and Amco signage. I am going with Gerry Bashford, so it should be a lot of fun.


September, 2015

You may notice that this update contains other updates that unfortunately did not make the web site at the time, but have now been included. Since the May update I travelled to New Zealand with a good group to spectate at the Otago Rally, always good fun. The most impressive aspect was NZ star Hayden Paddon winning the rally outright in a 2WD Ford Escort, beating Ken Block and all of the NZ Championship hot shots in their 4WD turbo cars. A great young talent, let’s hope he makes it in the Big Time. This was followed by Graham Wallis’s rerun of the 1980s State Bank Discovery Trial, a marathon event that covered most of South Australia. The rerun wasn’t quite as challenging, but was a great week of motor sport and socialising, with some stunning roads to drive on. Ross and Lisa Dunkerton won after a week long battle with John Rawson and Joel Wald, Ross stating that the event was one of the most enjoyable he had ever been on and all of the other competitors and officials heartily agreed. Our Renault R16TS, very competently navigated by Gerry Bashford, went slowly but reliably which surprised me as the car was totally unproven before the rally. What will I do with it now?



Next up is the annual Austin Seven rally. I will need to blow the dust off the Austin which has not been on the road since January, but it started first time and is ready for the run. Then in late October my son Daniel and I are going on a holiday to China, visiting the Terra Cotta warriors at Xian, the Great Wall Tiananmen Square and other famous venues in Beijing, a couple of days in Hangzhou, said to be one of the most beautiful cities in China, and finally to Shanghai. Really looking forward to that.

This year is an Alpine Rally year, but it looks as though I will not be competing – no suitable car. Still, after running in my 20th Alpine in 2013, I think I have done my share. A relaxing weekend on the sidelines coming u, and then Christmas will be upon us. Another action packed year gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February, 2014

Quite a lot has happened since I had the honour of being inducted into the Australian Rally Hall of Fame in 2013. A quick visit to New Zealand to spectate on the Otago Rally with a group of rally enthusiasts was closely followed by a lengthy outback trip in which I was assisted in the driving by Phil Rainer and Ian Swan (with a variety of fly in – fly out passengers including Dan Watson, Tim Kennon and of course Stella the schnauzer).



The outward trip took us via the Barossa and Port Augusta to Coober Pedy and the spectacular Painted Desert on Arckaringa near Oodnadatta, followed by Kings Canyon, Rainbow Valley and Alice Springs. From the Alice we headed due West on the Gary Junction Road, one of the vast network of roads constructed by Len Beadell's road construction party which opened up the outback to allow the tracking and recovery of rockets fired from Woomera back in the 1950s. This road took us via a number of Aboriginal settlements to Marble Bar. Petrol at Kunawarritji community cost $3.40 per litre, so by the time we filled the Pathfinder tank and four spare Jerry cans the bill came to $500.

The pub at Marble Bar (once known as Australia’s hottest town) was closed (!), so we pressed on to Broome for a pleasant but rather humid few days, then on via the Gibb River Road and the delightful gorges and scenery of the Kimberleys to El Questro for a couple of nights. The long journey home was via Kununurra, Katherine, Mataranka, the Devil’s Marbles and Alice again. A fantastic trip.


Then for something different, a group trip to the Goodwood Revival historic race meeting in the UK in August, organized by my friend Michael Browning. This was my second Goodwood and one could go another five times and still not take in all of the wonderful cars competing and on display. Then a friend John King and I travelled around Britain and part of Scotland for ten days, visiting two time London to Sydney marathon winner Andrew Cowan in the border country where we were very well looked after. A couple of nights in the Cotswolds completed a very pleasant tour.


The next couple of months were spent working on two projects: my latest book, which is on the history of the Bentley Driver’s Club of Australia, which is being written in conjunction with Dr Clare Hay, acknowledged world expert on vintage Bentleys. She is writing about the cars, while my contribution is about the formation and history of the club itself. The book is due for release in November 2014, and is turning out to be a very interesting and educational project.

 

The second project is the restoration of a 1927 Austin Seven, which I purchased from Margaret, wife of the late Maurie Monk. Maurie, one of the founders of CAMS, bought the car in New Zealand, and it only requires a relatively small amount of work to get it back on the roads. I started my motor sport career in Austin Seven cars, so this is almost a return to the womb for me. Hopefully the car will be on the roads and participating in Austin Seven Club events early in 2014.

 

The year was capped off when the new owner of my faithful old Datsun 1600 rally car Dave Johnson suggested we have a run in the Historic Rally Association's Alpine Rally in November. I was not confident of my fitness and ability to cope with an Alpine, but some concentrated gym work paid dividends and we had a great run, moving up from our starting position of 75 to finish 39th, not too bad for a crew which had a combined driver/navigator/car age of 200 years.


2014 is going to be busy. The action starts early with the Targa Wrest Point tarmac rally in February, in which I am co-driving for Gerry Bashford in his Escort Mexico. Then follows a week or so as a road official for the Sydney-London marathon rally which starts in Sydney in April. I am going with an old friend Chris Lee, and we will be doing controls across from the Flinders Ranges to Kalgoorlie to Perth. Looking forward to that, and perhaps also lending a hand to Tom Kennon and Peter Riseborough who are competing in a highly modified Commodore. Best of luck guys.

Closely following the marathon is a trip to Europe to spectate at the Historic Monaco Grand Prix and then a dash across to Brescia in Italy to watch the Mille Migla (thousand mile) rally around Italy. The event is a regularity run for around 400 cars built before 1957, the last year the proper Mille Miglia was run as a full on race. The race was stopped after a competing car ran off the road killing a number of spectators. In 1955 it was won by Stirling Moss driving a Mercedes Benz 300SLR sports car and co-driven by journalist Denis Jenkinson. They averaged just under 100 miles per hour for the ten hours of the event, an incredible achievement over barely closed public roads.

Then there is a break for a couple of months to finish off the Bentley book before taking to the outback again to official on the 2014 Classic Outback Trial In August. Phil Bernadou has persisted with the Classic Outback Trial, modelled on the 2008 Red Centre to Gold Coast rally but less costly and time consuming and for 2014 a good field seems assured, a just reward for the work that has gone into the development of the event. I will be using my trusty Jayco camper trailer yet again, enjoying the great Outback of NSW with Dave Johnson and of course the Dog of the Event, Stella.

 

Let’s see how all of that unfolds before we plan any further projects.

 

March, 2013

 

Bob Watson inducted into National Rally Hall of Fame.

plaque


On the evening of Tuesday February 26 I was granted the honour of being inducted into the National Rally Hall of Fame in the inaugural intake. This is my crowning achievement in over 50 years of involvement with the sport of rallying.

The award goes to those who have “consistently made an outstanding contribution to the sport in Australia including sporting performance, event organisation or promotion, or contribution as an official in any capacity”.

Thirteen people were inducted. They are (in alphabetical order), Neal Bates, Possum Bourne*, Garry Connelly, Ross Dunkerton, Harry Firth, John Large*, Gelignite Jack Murray*, George Shepheard, Tom Snooks, Doug Stewart, Donald K Thomson*, Ken Tubman*, Bob Watson.

(* - deceased)

 



What an honour to be grouped with those names! The presentation dinner was a great night, with over 200 people attending, including many legends of the sport. Congratulations to Paul Mullan, his wife Robyn and Katie Philps for putting together a wonderful occasion.

The Hall of Fame will be expanded with further inductees in the coming years, as there were many more candidates very close to being selected.