News this week that New Zealand’s new Ben Nevis hillclimb could be a precursor to the return of the famed Race To The Sky brought back memories of when Possum Bourne’s widow, Peggy, contested her one and only motorsport event.
In 2005, two years after the rallying great was killed in a road accident prior to the 2003 Race To The Sky, Peggy made her competitive driving debut at the same event.
Her entry was in honour of Possum, and grabbed the mainstream media headlines.
Peggy’s decision to compete was not greeted by universal approval within the New Zealand rallying fraternity, but the way in which she maintained a focus on driving, despite the intense media interest, earned the respect of many.
At the time, Peggy was clear in her reasons for competing, and realistic about her prospects.
“I want to experience the adventure and passion that was Possum, and what better place to do that than Race to the Sky?” she said.
“Even if I come last, which is very much a possibility, when I go over the finish line you will think I have won. It will be the emotion of doing it for Possum.
“It is like celebrating his life – celebrating his drive and passion.”
Peggy Bourne contested the Race To The Sky hillclimb in 2005, in memory of Possum.
She received considerable support from a number of those within the rallying fraternity who knew and worked with Possum.
Indeed, the idea to contest Race to the Sky came while she was playing a round of golf with Possum’s former mechanic and close friend Snow Mooney.
Others who rallied to the cause by supporting her included Mark Stacey, who guided her through the event from the co-drivers seat, and then current Kiwi rally champion and former Possum Bourne protégé Chris West.
Her personal preparations included attending a rally school, and six weeks of physical fitness training.
While overall results were not her reason for being there, if one measures her Race to the Sky effort by results, then she did both Possum’s memory and all of those who supported her, proud.
Over the course of the weekend she had bettered her 11m58.4sec practice time by 1m25secs to stop the clocks at 10m32.9sec in the final.
With that dramatic improvement in time, she also moved from 110th to 82nd in the 125-strong field.
“This is a one-off because, while it’s great to enjoy and experience, this was Possum’s passion,” she said at the conclusion of the event.
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