Vale Ivan Stibbard
Ivan Stibbard garnered an impeccable reputation as the chief administrator of Australia’s greatest motor race, the Bathurst 1000.
Stibbard had presided over the Bathurst 1000 from the first metric race in 1973 until the second and final Super Touring version of the race in 1998.
Earlier in his life, Stibbard had helped out as an official at Bathurst race meetings in the 1950s, prior to the first Bathurst 500 in 1963.
His path to becoming the boss for The Great Race had its roots in 1968 when the Australian Racing Drivers Club was on the lookout for a successor to Jack Hinxman, a tough no-nonsense ex-cop who had suffered a heart attack the previous year.
Stibbard was born in Sydney’s west at Granville and attended Parramatta Junior High School.
His father, brother and grandfather had worked for James Hardie, based at Camellia near Rosehill racecourse and so it followed that Stibbard would gain employment there too.
As a 16-year-old in 1953, Stibbard started up on the factory floor at James Hardie before moving into the office on general duties before moving to the insulation division.
At the time of the running of the first Armstrong 500 in 1963 at Bathurst, Stibbard moved to the brake lining division. Hardie joined forces with Ferodo when a factory for the new joint venture was built at Smithfield.
Dave Deane was the sales manager of the brake lining division and was also the vice-president of the ARDC.
“Jack Hinxman suffered a heart attack in 1967 and Dave Deane came to see me in the office and told me that the ARDC was looking for an understudy to Jack and would I be interested,” Stibbard said in a book, Bathurst: Celebrating 75 Years of Motor Racing at Mount Panorama, written by this author.
“I immediately thought ‘well what’s the future in that’. At the time I really thought what is the future in motorsport so I didn’t give him an answer one way or the other.”
In the end Stibbard bit the bullet and started with the ARDC in 1968 and was soon assistant secretary to Hinxman.
Stibbard was quite proud of holding only two jobs in his life, firstly at James Hardie and then with the ARDC.
He claimed that the ARDC-run Sydney track, Amaroo Park, long since bulldozed, had played a major role in putting Dick Johnson’s career on track.
“I went to Lakeside in the early ’70s from memory and I saw this clown driving around in an XU-1,” Stibbard reflected.
“We weren’t allowed to pay starter money for drivers racing at Amaroo but we could help out people from interstate, specifically with fuel costs associated with travelling. So I brought Dick down to Amaroo and he was a hit.”
Stibbard had been held in high regard by the residents living around Mount Panorama, none more so than Conrod Straight orchard owner Jim Windsor.
Not wanting to miss his regular Sunday church service in town, Windsor would be ushered from his home in an official track car while the race was in progress during the 1970s.
“Getting him out was fine, but getting him back home was the problem because we would have to ferry him almost a complete lap to drop him at the front of his house on Conrod Straight,” said Stibbard.
“I remember the first time we drove Mr Windsor out was on the back of a tractor.”
During the 1970’s Channel 7 made a habit of organising pre-race gimmicks for the Bathurst 1000 but the one which was seared in Stibbard’s memory was when thousands of pigeons were set free.
“So we had this semi-trailer holding all of these pigeons and it was parked down at Hell Corner,” Stibbard said.
“When the all-clear was given to let the pigeons out, they duly flew off but they had left a trail of shit everywhere.
“There was pigeon crap all over the track and I just did my block.”
Stibbard did a splendid job in what can be akin to walking the proverbial political tightrope in motor racing.
Many obstacles presented themselves over the years, but none were more dire than in 1986 when Mike Burgmann suffered a fatal accident during the Bathurst 1000.
Burgmann was a close friend to Stibbard who had to somehow detach himself from the immediate personal grief and continue to act as race director.
The accident had also happened as the race was hosting its highest profile VIP, the Duke of Edinburgh.
“Shortly after the accident everything became a bit of a blur,” recalled Stibbard.
“Mike was a friend of mine but I still had to get on with my job. It was hard.
“There were others charged with the task of looking after Prince Philip.”
Stibbard was as dedicated, honest, noble and as professional as they come.
He ran a tight ship and had been well schooled by the inimitable Hinxman.
Sadly Stibbard’s death closes a historic chapter of the Bathurst 1000 and the ARDC for which he served both loyally and with tremendous dignity.
Stibbard died aged 76 yesterday morning and leaves behind wife Leonie, son Mark and daughter Terina.
Speedcafe extends its deepest sympathies to his family.