Fatal accidents are fortunately rare in rallying, which makes it all the more difficult to accept them when they do happen. When Rodger Freeth died from injuries received in a crash during the Australia Rally, the entire rallying fellowship was stunned. Rodger was more than just a co-driver, he was an all-round motor sportsman, a highly qualified academic and, most of all, a gentleman.
Whilst at university, he began racing motor cycles and eventually collected a whole string of national titles. He was the only non-Australian to have won the Arai 500 race at Bathurst, which he did twice. He began rallying in 1973 and, in 1986, won the New Zealand Championship as Neil Allport’s co-driver. The following year, having sat alongside several notable drivers, including Pentti Airikkala, he began his partnership with ‘Possum’ Bourne which took him to events all over the world and to two more New Zealand titles. At the time of his death, he and Bourne were leading both the Asia-Pacific and the Australian championships.
During this time, he gave up his position as a lecturer at Auckland University – he held a doctorate in astrophysics – in order to devote his time to motor sporting activities. A hand injury during the 1986 Olympus Rally forced him to give up motor cycle racing, so he took to four wheels and was highly successful in a V8-powered Toyota Starlet. He even acquired an ex-Indianapolis Lola and broke the New Zealand land speed record, driving it at 194 mph on the most unlikely of tracks, a narrow, country road which was far from level. Rodger Freeth was a devoted sportsman whose geniality brought him new friends everywhere he went. He will be sorely missed, and we offer our sincere sympathy to his wife and two sons.
We were shocked to learn of the recent death of Rob Combes in a freak road accident. On the road from Ruiru to Nairobi, his car was struck at the top of its windscreen by a falling tree branch and Rob died instantly.
One of the most notable of Kenya’s motor sportsmen, Rob was well known and liked by everyone who came into contact with him, and his infectious humour invariably introduced a warm conviviality to any gathering.
A first class co-driver, he had partnered leading Kenyans Shekhar Mehta and Patrick Njiru.
When he stopped competing he became a deputy clerk of the course on the Safari Rally, during the event playing a troubleshooting role in remote parts of the route, his coolness and composure invariably leading to the solution of problems with a minimum of fuss.
His passing leaves a void in many circles, and we feel deeply for his wife Trish and their children Glenton, Murray and Natasha.