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If you care to count the number of books on sale written by or about Australian motorsport identities (excluding Peter Brock, that is), you could count them on the fingers of one hand.

Australia has more than its share of motor racing and rallying heroes with interesting stories to tell, yet few of them have had their careers recorded in chapter and verse, which is a shame because the passage of time will see some of them pass away before they are able to tell their stories.



So it was a pleasant surprise to see that at least one of these identities has managed to buck the trend and release a book about his exploits. I refer to Bob Watson, former works rally driver for Holden, Renault, Nissan and Ford, who won the Australian Rally Championship in 1970 and the Victorian Rally Championship on four occasions.

Watson is probably best known for his organisational abilities which include the 1995 Mobil 1 Round Australia Trial, the Australian leg of the 1993 London to Sydney Marathon and, most recently, the Red Centre to Gold Coast Trial. Along the way Watson has competed in many major events, such as the East African Safari, the Southern Cross Rally, the Don Capasco (or Castrol Internatonal) Rally, the 1977 Singapore Airlines London to Sydney Marathon, the Alpine Rally, and more. He was a leading contender in the halcyon days of rallycross, competing against (and occasionally beating) the late Peter Brock in several years of rough and tumble racing.

As well as his loose-surface exploits, the seventy-year-old Melburnian has had a successful career on bitumen, competing at Bathurst on a number of occasions and gaining a career-best third outright in a 327 Monaro, plus numerous outings at Sandown in Monaros and Torana XU1s. In fact, there would be few people who could match Watson’s exploits in what has been an amazing career spanning 50 years and which started with the purchase of his first car, an Austin 7.

“In Control” is one of those rare books that you don’t want to put down. Each short chapter (and there are 56 of them in this 180-page book) covers an aspect of his personal, business or motorsport life that is truly fasicinating. Watson pulls no punches, fearlessly giving CAMS a spray, and questioning many other subjects like the road toll, the plight of the Aborigines and the demise of “proper” rallying.

But the real guts of the book is of his motorsport life, and particularly rallying, from State and Australian Championship events to marathons and other iconic events like the Dulux, Southern Cross, Alpine and Experts rallies. We particularly liked the short pieces on some of the characters he’s met in the sport – Gil Davis, Bruce Hodgson, Peter Janson, Ross Dunkerton and others.

There are too many chapters to adequately describe the book in detail here, so we suggest that you get yourself a copy and put aside a few nights to kick back and absorb yourself in the book’s content. It’s illustrated by a great selection of both black and white and colored photos that visually remind us of his career at all levels of the sport. It reminded the reviewer of the really great days of rallying and racing before it all became too professional.

Watson’s long-time friend, Michael Browning, has obviously had a hand in the book, and it shows with an interesting and almost flawless text laid out in a way that really sucks you in.

We can only hope that Watson’s excellent book gets the Harry Firths, Ross Dunkertons, Ed Ordynskis, Greg Carrs, George Shepheards etc. etc. of this world sufficiently enthused to follow suit with a book of their own, before it’s too late. “In Control” might just be the catalyst.

- Jeff Whitten

“In Control” by Bob Watson
ISBN 1876953 53 5
Published by Bookworks, Sydney.
RRP $39.95

Purchase Bob Watson's brand new autobiography HERE.

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