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Tributes flowed for Possum Bourne after his tragic death. Below are some of those tributes, as well as some other news about the crash, and the aftermath, in the weeks after the accident.

V8 Supercar tribute

V8 Supercar teams racing at Sydney’s Eastern Creek circuit on the weekend after Possum Bourne’s death carried tributes to the Kiwi star. Marcos Ambrose and Russell Ingall’s Falcons raced with ‘Possum’ stickers on their cars while Ambrose dedicated his win to Bourne. The owners of the Ambrose team, Stone brothers Ross and Jim, are New Zealanders who hail from Pukekohe.

Ross Dunkerton on Possum:

“I met Possum in 1983, standing outside the railway station in Kuala Lumpur where we were awaiting the ceremonial start of the Rally of Malaysia. My wife came up and I introduced them and she said “So you’re the famous Possum Bourne,” and he replied “Not yet, but I’m working on it.” That one-liner, although said in jest, best describes the next 20 years of Possum’s life.

“He never lost sight of the goal, only stopping periodically along the way to participate in life’s more pleasant interruptions, like marriage and children. Even then, some would say these things were put on hold if there was a rally to win. When tragedy struck ten years ago and his business partner, friend and co-driver  Rodger Freeth  died, even that event did not prevent Possum from pursuing his ultimate dream of a full program in the World Championship.

“In our early days when we competed against each other in the Asia Pacific area, Possum was a rival and a worthy opponent. When the rally was over we drank and partied together, fished and holidayed together, shared many meals together, celebrated our respective marriages and then the birth of our children together. He never got to fulfill his dream of standing on the World Championship winner’s podium, but I prefer to remember him for the things he did, rather than mourn what he didn’t get to do.

“On Thursday April 24 I sat by his hospital bedside and said my goodbyes.
Senator Robert Kennedy’s words at his brother’s funeral hold true for Possum. They say simply that Possum need not be idealised in death beyond what he was in life. Rather, he should be remembered as a simple and decent man who had an extraordinary talent.”

Peggy Bourne – Possum’s wife

“Possum was the greatest, loving father  and our hero,” Peggy Bourne said after the death of her husband and her children’s father. “To say the children and I will miss him is a vast understatement. He was the love of my life and the greatest loving father to our children. I cannot even begin to describe how devastating this has been on us.”

Peggy Bourne, a Zambian-born America, met Possum on a trip to Africa in 1988, marrying not long after. She described her husband as the most loving, genuine, fair, down-to-earth, competitive and amazing man.

“He was our world. He will always be my Poss, daddy to the children, Peter to his mum, big brother to the rest of his family, a great mate to all his friends, an enthusiastic competitor, rival and mentor to his colleagues in the rallying community, with a personality that transcended all boundaries.”

She said she and her family had shared Possum with a nation for as long as she’d known him, and now the nation was sharing her grief.

“I hope Possum will remain the legend he has become so that his children will know what a great guy he was to all of us,” she added.

Mike Barltrop – the other driver

The driver of the Jeep Cherokee that collided with Possum Bourne’s car, Mike Barltrop, has postponed his wedding which was to take place this month. Barltrop’s father, Charles, said that his son was “not feeling too good” and decided that there was no way he could go ahead with his marriage to 23-year old Rebecca Greer.

Barltrop senior said his son had long been a fan of Possum and actually bought a rally car from him. “Possum didn’t just sell him the car, he kept in contact over the years.” 38-year old Mike Barltrop sustained a broken leg in the accident.

NZ Herald pays tribute

A report in the New Zealand Herald, NZ’s major daily newspaper, claims that Possum Bourne acted to avoid a collision 20 metres before the accident happened.  

They said that local police had said that the accident was not head-on, Bourne’s car being hit on the front driver’s side, on a section of road that was 20 metres wide. The owner of the private access road in the Cardrona Valley that is used in the Race to the Sky hillclimb, John Lee, said that skid marks had started 20 metres from the point of impact, Bourne’s Subaru Forester finishing up in the table drain.

The crash scene is 1.5 kilometres from the bottom of the 13 kilometre access road to the Waiorau Snow Farm, a ski lodge and skiing site that is also home to a number of tyre testing sites used by international car companies. The complex is owned by John and Mary Lee and is used anually for the Race to the Sky event.

The area is well known for its “bra fence”, a display of 800 brassieres which are hung over the top rail of a fence. Motorists driving along the Crown Range Road often stop for photographs of the unique fence. The NZ Herald reported that Possum and his family were staying at the Snow Farm lodge over the weekend, something that they did regularly in previous years.

"Words fail me" - Subaru NZ’s GM

“Words fail me on how to express our grief and the enormity of this (the accident). We can only express our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to Peggy and family,” Wallis Dumper, Subaru New Zealand General Manager, said on hearing of Possum Bourne’s death.

“Possum lived and epitomised the spirit of the Kiwi sporting hero. He is a rally legend and a Subaru icon. Our Subaru family, the dealer team, Australian and Japanese partners and worldwide Subaru associates will miss him dearly,” he added.

 

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