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Vale Frank Kilfoyle

1933 -2013

Frank Kilfoyle was the greatest all round rally competitor Australia has seen. Normally drivers are drivers, and navigators navigate. Frank could do both with equal skill at the highest level.

He won the ultimate driver’s event, the Alpine Rally on five occasions, and was winning navigator in 1959, the only person to have won the Alpine as a driver and as a navigator. He won the most demanding navigation event on the calendar, the BP Rally of South Eastern Australia as a navigator three times.

Frank was Victorian champion driver inn 1963 and 1964 and won the Australian Rally Championship co-driven by Doug Rutherford in 1969, the second year of its running. He was inducted in to the Victorian Rally Hall of Fame in 2005, one of the inaugural batch of inductees.
Not only did Frank excel in the car, he was a brilliant event organizer, running both the Alpine Rally and the BP Rally for the Light Car Club of Australia on several occasions.

He was the road director for arguably the most difficult event ever run in Australia, the 20,000 km 1979 Repco Round Australia Reliability Trial. Competitors hated and respected him at the same time.

Frank was a thinking driver. He could describe the effect on the car of various kinds of road surface, where to find the best traction, and when to take extra care.

He imparted these skills to large audiences at Rally Schools run at Monash University in the 1970s. He had one philosophy which I always personally admired: he would say “There are no rough roads – there are only rough drivers”.

His early successes in VWs gained him a place in the official Ford rally team, run at the time by Harry Firth. Originally taken into the team as a navigator, he guided Firth to a win in the 1962 and 1963 BP Rallies. While navigating Firth in the Alpine Rally, Harry suggested they swap seats, and gave Frank some training in rally driving. Firth won the inaugural Australian Rally championship in 1968, and Frank followed up by winning the title in 1969.

Frank was a person who applied himself 100% to any task he took on. For a period he ran Rallyquip, a business supplying maps and other rally needs to competitors. Despite being in a business that was never going to make him rich, Frank was happy to spend time talking to his customers about all aspects of rallying and imparting his great knowledge of the sport. He was a great mentor for young drivers, his skills, intelligence and precise communication making him the ideal teacher.

In the early sixties, already established as a leading competitor in rallying, Frank entered his own VW in a number of club trials with a young spastic boy, Barry Onley,  who worked washing company cars at GMH. Although Barry could not even hold a map board, Frank gave him experiences that were very special and greatly improved the quality of the young man’s life.

It is unusual in rallying to actually race closely with another car, but it happened to me twice with Frank. The first occasion was in an Alpine Rally in the early 1960s, when we raced no more than 50 metres apart across the Dargo High Plains from Mount St Bernard to Dargo, Frank in the lead in a Falcon and me chasing in an HR Holden. The second was in the 1973 Southern Cross Rally, when we were both in the official Nissan factory team.

Frank was driving a Datsun 180B SSS and I had a Datsun 240Z. We raced in close company for eighty kilometers on the famous Horseshoe stage, both going as hard as we could and neither being able to break clear. Such experiences are very rare and special in rallying, and only served to raise my already high respect for the man.

Franks’s last public rally appearance was at the Alpine Rally in 2007, when he was the Guest of Honour. Although not well, he was welcomed by all. His achievements in this most difficult of events to win were admired and respected by everyone.

Bob Watson
29 August 2013.

Magazine cover supplied by Stephen Dalton.

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