Fred Gocentas, one of Australia’s most decorated rally co-drivers, has lost his battle with illness.
Gocentas, who would have turned 73 next month, was a brilliant co-driver whose career spanned from the 1960’s until recently when he came out of retirement to help a budding ACT teenager find his feet in the sport.
Over the years Gocentas has co-driven for many great drivers including five-times Australian champion Ross Dunkerton, three-times Australian champion Greg Carr and the top Japanese Mitsubishi driver Kenjiro Shinozuka.
He also had a long association with another Japanese driver, Katsuhiko Taguchi, through the 1990’s chiefly competing in Rally Australia and New Zealand.
Through his career Gocentas was a constant fixture in the golden era of rallying through the Southern Cross and Castrol days in the 1970’s as well as in the Asia Pacific and Australian Rally Championships.
He was a lark with a great sense of humour and was right in the thick of it through the magical period of rallying in Australia when the Works Escorts and Works Datsuns were slugging it out in the 1970’s.
Gocentas would win the Southern Cross rally twice alongside the brilliant Scotsman Andrew Cowan in a Mitsubishi Lancer 1600 GSR.
Gocentas co-drove for Carr in the Ford Escort when they claimed the prized scalp of Finn Ari Vatanen in the Castrol Rally in 1980, an event that the then Canberra-based Carr had won on six successive occasions from 1975 to 1980. The film Forty Split Seconds, capturing the highlights of the 1980 Castrol Rally, is one of the most iconic in the sport’s history in Australia.
It was also with Carr that Gocentas won the Australian Rally Championship in the Alfa Romeo GTV6 in 1987.
Born on his family’s farm in Lithuania, he arrived in Australia in the 1950’s when they were initially placed in a migrant camp at Cowra, the same facility which kept Japanese POW’s during WWII.
By the 1960’s Gocentas had a fascination with motorsport and well before pace noting became fashionable in rallying he attended navigator’s school.
Among his many victories were Asia (1988, 1991, 1992), Malaysia (1981, 1986, 1991, 1992, Indonesia (1992), Thailand (1992). He finished third with Dunkerton in a Galant in Rally NZ in 1992.
Tributes through social media channels began filtering through.
Australia’s highly successful female co-driver Coral Taylor said: “Very saddened to hear that Fred Gocentas passed away. He really was a true gentleman, friend to everyone, and a co-driver always willing to share his knowledge and help others. And a wicked sense of humour that had many of us laughing over the years. RIP Freddie.”
Long-time rally identity Dallas Dogger said: “Saddened by the news of Fred Gocentas passing away yesterday. He was a sensational navigator, never tiring of sharing his secrets. He ran the Fred Gocentas Navigating school in the late 70’s and early 80’s. He sat with many masters behind the wheel including Greg Carr and Ross Dunkerton. He was a whiz with Halda gears teaching many (including me) how to work out the damn things! I felt privileged to have done one event with him in Bateman’s Bay. RIP Freddy!
Top driver John Goasdoue posted: “A true legend, and great loss to Australian rallying.”
See below highlights of the famous 1980 Castrol rally