20 Years since we lost Rodger Freeth
Today is another poignant anniversary amongst the Rally community.
The 18th of September 2013 marks the 20th anniversary since popular New Zealand co-driver, Rodger Freeth was tragically killed at Rally Australia in Perth.
Best known in international Motorsport for co-driving, Rodger himself was an avid and successful competitor at both motorcycle and tarmac car racing too.
In 1993, several months before Rally Australia, Freeth set the New Zealand land speed record in an Indy Car, running at an average speed of 313.5km/h!
Rodger’s love of speed was a far cry from his profession as a mild mannered university lecturer, teaching Astro-Physics.
On the 18th of September 1993, Rodger and his fellow countryman and driver Peter “Possum” Bourne were competing in the then named Telecom Rally Australia. Driving a Subaru Legacy RS, as part of the Pro-Drive Subaru works, the pair were tackling an early stage in the rally through the forests in Mundaring to the east of Perth.
The Legacy left the road at high speed and collided with a tree at an awkward angle. The resultant impact gave Freeth internal injuries and two hours later, he died in Royal Perth Hospital.
Freeth was well liked and popular amongst works teams, organisers and officials. His death was a serious shock to all of those who heard the news.
Held in such high regard by many, a memorial plaque was erected nearby to the accident site on the special stage in Mundaring.
After the accident, driver Possum Bourne struggled to come to terms with Rodger’s death and considered retiring from the sport. Through encouragement from friends and family, Bourne continued on to a very successful rally driving career with Subaru both within Australia and internationally. All of Possum’s rally cars from that time on would carry the license plates “Roj” in memory of his good friend and co-driver.
Sadly, 2013 commemorates the 10th anniversary of Possum’s death. In April of 2003 Possum was entered to compete in a gravel hill climb in NZ called race to the sky. On a non-competitive section of public road, Possum was involved in a road accident that ultimately proved fatal.
With the loss of both Rodger and Possum, the Australian Rallying scene has never been the same since.