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Legendary Australian navigator/co-driver Fred Gocentas has died, aged 72.

Gocentas burst onto the rally scene in the 1970s and famously teamed up with Canberran Greg Carr to contest the Castrol International Rally and the Southern Cross Rally in a Colin Bond-prepared BDA Escort, IYK 000.

The partnership lasted for many years, a highlight of which was the regular contests between the Ford and Datsun rally teams.  

Gocentas famously teamed with Greg Carr to win six consecutive Castrol International rallies that were run in the forests surrounding Canberra. In 1980 the pair teamed up to beat Finn, Ari Vatanen, in a similar-spec Escort RS1800. That event was famous for the special stages that used roads of a new housing estate in suburban Canberra, and was the subject of the famous film of the rally, entitled “40 Split Seconds”.

While Gocentas would always be remembered fondly for the Escort days, he achieved even greater success in many other events covering five decades.

He co-drove for five-time Australian champion, Ross Dunkerton, as well as renowned Japanese drivers Katsuhiko Taguchi and Kenjiro Shinozuka. In addition, he won the prestigious Southern Cross Rally twice with Scotsman Andrew Cowan.

Fred Gocentas, together with Carr, also won the 1987 Australian Rally Championship in an Alfa Romeo GTV6, a most unlikely but obviously successful change from the Escorts that they were both associated with.  

As well as competing in Australia, Gocentas, a Lithuanian, scored co-driving victories in Malaysia, Thailand, India, Indonesia and New Zealand.

“Fast Freddie”, as he was sometimes known, will be remembered by many for his inclusion in the Mitsubishi Ralliart rally team when he regularly co-drove for Ross Dunkerton in Rally Australia and Asia Pacific events. He was synonymous with the red, white and blue Mitsubishi Galant VR4s and Lancers of the 1980s and 90’s.

Gocentas first set foot on Australian soil when, with his parents, he arrived like so many refugees at a migrant camp in Cowra, NSW. He quickly developed an interest in motorsport, particularly navigating, and quickly became the man to beat in events of the day.

His quick wit and friendly nature endeared him to the motorsport world and he was always happy to pass on his navigational skills to anyone who asked. He came out of retirement to navigate recently to help a young ACT driver find his feet in the sport – no mean achievement for a 70 year old.

Dieter (Fred) Gocentas was one in a million and will be sadly missed by those who knew him, and those who were captivated by his fierce determination to win.

Through many years covering Australian rallying, RallySport Magazine feel privileged to have known Fred, and to have watched his skill in the co-driver’s seat.

RIP Fred.

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