Australian Rally History

by Tom Snooks
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Reflection on Kevin Shaw

9 January 2014

When you grow old you have the luxury of reflecting on life’s gifts, which are many.

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts given to us is that of experiencing a very satisfying relationship with another human being.

The majority of us have several such rewards in our lifetime, and one of these given to me was a 20 year fellowship with Kevin, now so sadly ended, at least in a physical life.

As I have written earlier this week Kevin was greatly respected for his honesty and integrity in any dealings he had with people, these being matters in which he placed the highest value.

He was a gentle man, but firm when required to be so (after all, he spent 12 years as a CAMS Board Member) and very few people ever heard him say a cross word, or raise his voice for that matter.

Kevin was one of those unique people who would be in the background, absorbing all that was going on around him, and around you, rarely if ever interfering, but ALWAYS ready to come forward if needed, or if he considered it necessary – always only in the interests of the event.

Over the past 20 years Kevin acted as my right-hand and left-hand man in many events, standing, not behind me, but right alongside me, shoulder to shoulder. The major events we did together were:

  • 10 Targa Tasmania events from 1994 to 2003, and of course he continue to be involved long after my time with the event
  • 1995 Mobil Round Australia Trial over 25 days
  • 1998 Playstation Round Australia Trial over 32 days
  • 2 Classic Adelaide Tarmac Rallies, 2002 and 2003, each over 7 days
  • 5 Australian Safaris 1999 to 2003, each over 10 to 12 days
  • 3 Grand Prix Rallies in Victoria, each over 6 days
  • 2008 Red Centre to Gold Coast Trial, over 12 days
  • 3 Classic Outback Trails of 2009, 2010 and 2012, each of 11 days
  • 5 Bega Valley Rallies based at Eden, each over 6 days.

As Clerk of Course for all those events my role was strongly enhanced by his presence.

Other than for Targa Tasmania we roomed together in all the other events, totaling some 225 nights – so we got to know each other very, very well.

Fortunately Kevin was a person who was unassuming, quiet, without ego, so the relationship at all times was without any sign of angst, not one sign.

Together, we established and conducted the headquarters and or rally control for the events and his contribution ensured smoothly run events – or as smooth as they could be.

His wisdom, much sought after by me, and his passion for the sport,  were great assets in our motivation to be involved together year after year.

Kevin of course also assisted numerous other organisers in the conduct of their events.

Nothing uproarious happened to the two of us but there are some comments worth passing on.

Targa Tasmania

I first arrived at Targa Tasmania for the second event in 1993 and there was some degree of animosity amongst the locals of someone coming in from the mainland, particularly someone as close to John Large as I was – I had been the best man at his first marriage.

Naturally, everyone on the organising committee had their ideas of how the event should be structured and conducted, and the difference of opinions caused some strain within the team.

It was mainly due to Kevin, and Jeff Ransley, that things were sorted out amicably and we all know how the event has gone onto greatness. Kevin’s quiet manner in dealing with each of us was a major contribution to the event’s eventual success. He was on the organising committee representing the Tasmanian State Council throughout my time and his advice to a Mainland Australian on a variety of issues, some touchy, some very touchy indeed – such as caps for officials in 1995 – was invaluable


One cannot mention Targa Tasmania without thinking of the serious incidents that occurred. Such incidents throw a great strain on a rally control if the decision is to continue the event. It was one of Kevin’s role to handle the incidents while the rest of us continued with the  event’s conduct.

He was the perfect selection for this task, for his calm manner and measured thinking in following our Incident Plan ensured that all the conditions and obligations were followed.

Targa Tasmania Results

In 1998 I wanted to spend time in the results room of Targa Tasmania to get a handle on the problems we had in just getting out results, let alone accurate results, in a timely fashion.

I ended up spending near the whole of the event with Garry Searle in the results room, which was a floor below the location of rally control at the Casino – with the slowest lift invented by mankind connecting the two floors not making for speedy human movement between the two floors. I wasn’t even missed in rally control – each time I called to enquire how things were I would get a quiet voice saying – ‘Stay there, everything is under control’, and so it was. No need to say whose voice it was.

Bega Valley Rally

On a similar note we were running the Bega Valley Rally in 2010 – this event now being considered the best of the both the Victorian and New South Wales Rally Championships – when the night before the one day event I went down with an illness. At dawn Kevin, having put up with moaning and groaning all night without a word back, called for medical assistance (we have four event paramedics in the motel!!) and I was carted off to hospital for most of the day, returning in time for the finish.

I wasn’t even missed in rally control, and it has often been said to me that year was the smoothest run event out of the five we conducted. No tantrums, no shouting, no swearing, no hair pulling – just peace which was paramount throughout the day. Guess who was in rally control throughout that day!!

1995 Mobil Round Australia Trial

The Mobil Round Australia Trial in 1995 was run over some 25 days, and this involved us flying in small twin engine planes – which we called ‘puddle jumpers’ – from one overnight stop to the next.

By the time Kevin and I had finished our tasks and got to the motel is was always quite late. I would have a few whiskies and all I had to read was the local telephone book – the front of the book in those days had pages on the history and geography of the area.

In Broome Kevin bought some newspapers and we then went to our motel to claim our key – one of the first principles is always to get hold of your room key at the earliest opportunity – and our room wasn’t ready, we were too early. But we could leave our gear in the room, which we did. When we got there late that night, a few whiskies and a good read was in order – thankfully the whisky was there but the cleaners, thinking that the previous occupiers had left the newspapers, threw them out. So, I learnt all about the history and geography of Broome and Port Hedland!

Kevin and Casino

Whilst talking about this event – we had a pretty hectic time for a week in setting the event up in Brisbane and getting it under way, overnighting in Sydney, Melbourne and then Adelaide.

When we reached Alice Springs us officials had a night off as it took the competitors two days to rally from Adelaide to the Red Centre.

So, our team of a dozen or so partied in our motel. Kevin went off to carry out some task and didn’t come back. After a time we noticed he was missing – this took some time to realize because Kevin was never the noisiest person in the group – and a few wanted to go looking for him. I wandered down to our room and I thought I could hear him purring away through the noise of the air-conditioner, so I didn’t go in as I might have woken him up.

Some hours later Kevin walks into the room of by now very well lubricated and noisy officials, with a smile as large as a Cheshire cat that lasted for some time.

After I time I said to him that I was suspicious and why the big smile. He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a Casino cheque for a considerable amount of money, and said he was contemplating whether to send it to Pauline to bank or to keep it until he got back in two weeks time – remember banking wasn’t a 24 hour thing in those days.

It turns out that after completing whatever he had to do he drove past the casino and, not being a party animal like the rest of us, thought he would have a flutter.

Pauline later told me she did receive …… a photostat of the cheque!!

Obviously, with a 20 year association between us there are many stories to relate but most of them would only mean something between Kevin and myself.

I missed Kevin dearly after he passed away and my colleagues at subsequent events understood and assisted in many ways like Kevin did, but never tried to be Kevin himself, and I respected that very much.