Australian Rally History

by Tom Snooks
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Reflection on John Michael Large OAM

John Michael Large was born on 16 October 1938 and passed away on Anzac Day 2006, aged 67 years.

He was born in Burnie and at an early age his family moved to Launceston, where he attended the local Primary and High Schools. He excelled, nearly always the head of his classes.


John had a great love of aircraft and flying, and as a youngster built many balsawood model planes of quite elaborate design.

As a teenager he joined the Air Training Corp, obtained his Student Pilot License and flew solo many times. He wanted to join the Air Force but an eye problem resulted in him not passing the health check.

However, that didn’t stop his love of flying and all of us who knew him well know of his passion for Seat 1A

– lo and behold anyone who was booked in that seat ahead of him, as he would stir heaven and earth to get them moved out of ‘his’ seat. The principle reason was so he could have the bigger-than-usual table on which he could spread his papers and work, particularly on long flights which he often took overseas and between Perth and the Eastern States capitals.

John was very good at architecture and carpentry and his ability is reflected in the offices he designed for his homes. They have been quite outstanding. He designed his own home in Attadale (Perth), where he lived throughout the seventies and eighties.

John was a very accomplished pianist and he could play the piano beautifully and I have extremely pleasant memories of when we use to gather around him. If we could get him in the right mood he played tunes enchantingly; more often, to our delight, we could get him in a mood such that we could lean on the piano and sing limericks. Lovely times.


John developed a liking for sailing, mainly on the Swan River, and would come forth with a great variety of tactics during races, many at the same time. I’m sure he gave up sailing because he couldn’t find a skipper that would take him on board!

John had an unbelievable passion for musical comedies – Can Can, Rose Marie, For Me and My Gal, Gigi, Hello Dolly, My Fair Lady, his second favourite was The Merry Widow, and his favourite Kiss Me Kate.

In his younger adult days in Launceston he was involved with a jazz band, acted in theatre plays, and could most brilliantly take off such hilarious artists as Flanders and Swann, with their poems, verses and nonsense rhymes. Some of my favourite memories of John are when he did this, with people in restaurants turning to watch and listen to him, and offer applause.

Another of John’s favourite hobbies for many years was photography, possessing a critical eye for detail.

He had a very keen interest in cricket and Aussie Rules football, and in our first years knowing each other we enjoyed backyard games with my then young son, who remembers John ‘training him’.

John followed both the Perth and Essendon Football Clubs and I followed South Fremantle and then the Sydney Swans when I moved East in 1970, and over the 40 years we had many a stoush about our teams’ performances. I’ll always remember his congratulations when the Swans won the premiership in 2005 – he was on the telephone to me as soon as the siren rang to offer his congratulations.

Our associates who were present at meetings and functions will, I am sure, vividly recall the passion with which John and I argued about the merits of our teams, and we were always digging at each other. If Essendon had an important game coming up, John would wear his special ‘Essendon underpants’ on the day – not that it conveyed them much luck on a lot of occasions. He truly loved his football.


Following the rejection by the Australian Air Force, John turned to the pharmacy world, passing his Final Examinations in 1961.

He matured in the pharmacy world just as ‘the contraceptive pill’ came onto the market and he took on employment as a medical retailer, flogging the pills to doctors around Tasmania, and training and advising them in its use.

In 1966 an opportunity arose for him to move to Perth, where he managed and then owned pharmacies, and later in partnership, developed a chain of pharmacies throughout Perth suburbs and the Eastern States.

John was responsible for the cash register design for his pharmacies – designed to record product information, staff productivity, and to develop management skill. Bear in mind there were no computers in those years to assist with the skills that were required to run a successful pharmacy, and what he did was quite revolutionary.

He also developed a product stock control system that was so successful the principles of the system formed the basis for development of computer systems by large pharmacy organisations in later years; and he formed a pharmacy marketing group, which was a force to be reckoned with by his pharmacy industry opposition.

John was involved with the national Pharmacy Guild for a quite a few years, and fought extensively for the rights of pharmacy groups. Ultimately, he was recognised with a special award of appreciation for his valued contribution to the Guild.


The beginning of John’s involvement in motor sport started in 1967.

Some of the trophies John large won in his relatively short motor sport competition career

I had a young family of three at that time and so I had the need to go to a pharmacy often, and that’s where I met John – at the ‘infamous’ Hamilton Hill Pharmacy (out from Fremantle).

He discovered I was a member of the West Australian Car Club and he came along to some club days, which included navigation around Perth – navigation involving good-old eight digit map references using pre-war maps, which required a lot of skill to be successful.


John Large in a WACC motorkhana in 1967 driving his red Alfa Romeo Spyder when he first became involved in the sport – just another average competitor before his climb up the ladder to motor sport fame.

John took to navigation like a duck takes to water and was instantly successful, and the rest, as they say, is history, as he went on to win many West Australia State Championships, and in 1975, the Australian Rally Championship.

In a WA State Championship round, early 1970s, with Rod Slater
Ross Dunkerton / John Large – 1975 Australian Rally Champions Cover from Racing Car News, November 1975
The 1970 Ampol Round Australia Trial – John Large with Ross Dunkerton in the Volvo.

After the 1975 Championship win John retired from active competition and settled down into a dedicated period with the CAMS Administration.


Johns influence on motor sport was enormous, and at least the equal to one of the founders of CAMS, Donald K Thompson, and its longest serving CEO, John Keeffe, and his influence will be felt for many years to come.

His CAMS and FIA service from 1972 to 2006 needs to be the subject of a further publication.


Unfortunately, there simply is not enough space to outline any of the many, many stories about John, nor even a handful of John’s achievements outside of his CAMS and International roles, so I will leave it at mentioning one – Targa Tasmania.

John has been credited with being one of the architects of an event that has become one of the jewels in Australian motor sport, indeed in the World’s motor sport world.

John Large in typical pose during the running of Targa Tasmania

The event was designed to “allow those with fine motor cars to drive them the way that the manufacturer intended them to be driven”, these being words John so often quoted. The event indeed allowed many

very fine vehicles to come out into the open from being locked away in museums or private garages and being brought out only for an occasional illicit burn along a back road.

It is essentially an amateur motoring event, and the guardians of Targa Tasmania since John moved on from the event have continued with that intention, although a degree of professionalism is part of the event at the ‘sharp end’.

Almost everyone involved in Australian motor sport will know about Targa Tasmania, its greatness. It was a passion for John in the first six to seven years (from 1991) when it was being developed and massaged into the event it became. He strove for excellence at all times and it has led to tarmac rallying becoming the fastest expanding category of motor sport.

I had the ultimate privilege of being what John called ‘his builder’ of Targa Tasmania, from an Operations point of view, in developing the event and I thoroughly enjoyed working for him over the years and it certainly gave me a unique insight to his enormous powers of thinking and concentration. I was involved from 1993 to 2003, and was the Clerk of Course for 10 years.

Whilst most of us will soon be forgotten, John’s association with Targa Tasmania will last forever.

Tom Snooks with John Large on a Targa Tasmania Course Drive in 1994

Gabriel Cadringher Eulogy – Secretary and Convenor, FIA Manufactures Commission

I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with John in motor sports for more than twenty five years. I think all of us who knew John in this capacity will agree that he was an outstanding personality in motor sports, both for Australia and internationally. He served during many long years proudly and successfully, both the CAMS and the FIA.

 I will forever remember John, in particular for a special and personal experience. Years ago John came to the FIA and started talking about a new event called TARGA Tasmania. He was very enthusiastic about this new race, but few people could properly grasp the concept, and he had some initial difficulty getting the event recognized by the FIA.

 The Rally Commission said: the cars that are competing are all old; therefore it is not for us, it is for the Historical Commission. The Historical Commission said: it is a Rally, it is not for us, it is for the Rally Commission. But John was a fighter, and in the end, the matter landed on my desk. After much

discussion with John and the exchange of many long faxes, (before the days of email!), the regulations were agreed and we got everything finally approved by the FIA.

 However, that was not the end of John’s problems. Still many people were suspicious or worried about enthusiasts racing any sort of car around Tasmania. Rumours were spread about unsafe stages, deeply modified cars, and so on and so forth. So, the FIA had to send someone down-under to see, first-hand what was happening.

 That person was me. When I went to the 2001 Targa Tasmania I found a fantastic and unique event, perfectly and safely organized by a group of professional enthusiasts. All of this was created, supported and encouraged by John. For me personally it was one of the best experiences I have ever had in motor sports, and I while I will always remember John for many, many things, it is his dedication and perseverance in relation to this event that will remain with me forever.

 Above all John was a friend, and a great man. I enjoyed working with him, I enjoyed his sense of humour, and his professionalism. I shall miss him enormously, as I know too, will many of our FIA colleagues and motor sports friends all around the world.


Many of us saw the decline in John’s body over the last few years, but the mind was very sound right to the end.

He went on an overseas trip in mid-March 2006 and upon his return attended the Melbourne Grand Prix on the Friday, but couldn’t make it on the Saturday and Sunday. He went into hospital prior to Easter, then spent Easter at home, but was back in hospital immediately after that holiday break and died a week later – in fact, 10 minutes before the 2006 Targa Tasmania Prologue started!

Frankly, we simply did not comprehend, at that time, what a great loss John was to motor sport.

As I said goodbye to John, for what was the very last time, in the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, and only 48 hours before he passed away, we tenderly shook hands and he whispered to me “thanks for standing by me”. They were wonderful words to me, and indeed it was an honour and a privilege to stand by him over a long time (40 years).




The Order of Australia is the principal means of recognising outstanding members of the community at a national level and has four levels:

Instituted in 1961, the CAMS Award of Merit is the highest recognition that can be conferred upon any person by CAMS and is awarded for outstanding individual contribution and duration of service to the development and administration of Australian motor sport, on a national basis.

Deserving nominees of this award must have demonstrated duration of services rendered, significant achievement at the highest level and a voluntary contribution to motor sport which stands out above all others.

The Australian Motor Sport Hall of Fame – awarded 2017 John Large was inducted in 2017.
CAMS Australian Rally Hall of Fame – awarded 2013    John Large was amongst the inaugural inductees when the award commenced in 2013
Targa Tasmania Hall of Fame – awarded 2001

The Targa Tasmania Hall of Fame has been set up to honour outstanding commitment to the event by past and present officials and competitors. Competitors are automatically admitted to the Hall of Fame on completion of 15 events, when they are also awarded the John Large Memorial Award.


John, so full of enthusiasm and insight, so instrumental and so effective in all the things in which he was associated, can, I believe, be best summed up by a saying credited to J. F. Kennedy about Theodore Roosevelt, with a slight adaptation:

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,
who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at best, if he wins, knows the thrills of high achievement, and, if he fails, at least fails daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those of us who are cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”

Large and Snooks