Thanks for the memories

By Catherine Pattison on Sat, 21 Jul 2018

After nearly 20 years with the Otago Daily Times, the last 11 of which spent as a motoring writer for Drivesouth, I've chosen a new road to travel.

So this is goodbye and thank you to my readers and goodbye to all the drivers and riders I have written about over the past decade - it's been a great ride.

Casting back through my memories for fodder for this editorial, I realise how fortunate I have been to have so many wonderful ones to choose from.

There are funny ones, such as one of my very first jobs, interviewing a Nascar owner in Dunedin and wondering why he looked so surprised when I asked if I could jump in the driver's seat to take a look inside. Turns out that the No. 11 Budweiser Ford Thunderbird can only be accessed via its windows and I happened to be wearing a skirt that day.

There are random ones, such as taking my 3-month-old baby girl to a BMW ladies driving day in Wellington (my aunt and uncle babysat while I roared around the track).

Any motorsport follower or competitor will tell you that as much as their passion is about the cars or motorbikes, it's also about the people involved in this sport. They are what has really made this job for me.

There's my regular contacts from all around Otago that I've enjoyed keeping in touch with over the years, following their fortunes in speedway, rallying, circuit racing, motocross, off-roading and even international trails riding. Two of my favourite ladies - Dunedin rally driver Emma Gilmour and Europe-based, Palmerston-born motocross rider Courtney Duncan - I will stay involved with, as I write their media releases.

Others, I hope to continue to bump into around the traps.

With the people come their cars, and I've thoroughly enjoyed writing about the ground-up garage projects; the treasured purchases of long-coveted cars; and of course, many a hot lap.

The gravel standouts are spins with Finnish ex-World Rally Champion Hannu Mikkola, who first got me hooked on going sideways with a media ride before the 2003 Otago Rally. I've emerged grinning from ear to ear from the passenger seat of WRC driver Hayden Paddon's Mitsubishi during his early-career days; appreciated Andrew Hawkeswood's Group A Evo 8 in his backyard track in Auckland and was thoroughly impressed about how fast that girl can pedal, after a test run with Gilmour in the forest.

On the track, I'll never forget the visceral brutal power of Inky Tulloch's monstrously-powerful 650hp 7.9-litre V8-engined Camaro GT3 as we hurtled around Highlands Motorsport Park. It turned out to be a poignant ride, as not long after Tulloch had a serious accident at Teretonga and has not raced since. He is truly one of the sport's gentlemen and I felt extremely fortunate to have sat next to him as he wrestled with the car he loved on what has become my "local" track.

Hats off here to Tony Quinn and the Highlands team for developing a bare patch of Cromwell dirt into the incredible motorsport attraction it is today.

Along with sensations, there are also sights that will stay with me forever. An x-ray Kiwi double World Women's Motocross champion Katherine Prumm sent me of the horrendous amount of metal-ware holding her back together after a horrific training crash ended her racing career. A series of photographs showing Duncan clipping an errant photographer standing right in her way, on a jump - causing a crash that ended her world motocross championship title hopes in her debut year. Perching in the Cardrona valley rocks, watching Scottish rally star Alister McRae storming up the steep, winding gravel road in the ex-Possum Bourne WRC Subaru on his way to winning the final Race to the Sky event.

As with any job there are many people who help make it easier. Thanks to all the photographers over the years, who have helped out with illustrating my stories, in particular Geoff Ridder, who has always been supremely obliging about sharing his quality work.

Thanks to the ODT for taking a punt by giving a girl a role with Drivesouth; to date there is still only a handful of women motoring writers in New Zealand.

Lastly, a big thank you to my motoring editor David Thomson, who encouraged me to try my hand at motoring writing 11 years ago and went on to become my mentor and will remain a friend.

Catherine Pattison