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Ivan Stibbard: Tributes for a great official

Gordon Lomas

Tuesday 28th January, 2014 - 4:02pm

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Ivan and Leonie Stibbard at Bathurst in 2012. Pic: Western Advocate

Ivan Stibbard with wife Leonie at Bathurst in 2012. Pic: Western Advocate

Hundreds of mourners paid their respects to former long-serving Bathurst 1000 race boss Ivan Stibbard who was laid to rest on the Gold Coast.

Stibbard, who died in Allamanda Hospital after an illness stretching 109 days last week, was remembered as a tough, passionate and dedicated administrator.

He had gained tremendous respect at the Australian Racing Driver’s Club and as the chief official of the Bathurst 1000 from the first metric running of the race in 1973 until 1998.

Competitors across several generations and fellow officials were universal in their praise of Stibbard who was chiselled from old school values.

Among those in attendance were former CAMS chief executive John Keeffe, long serving CAMS race director Tim Schenken, CAMS president Andrew Papadopoulos, former PA’s Sue Middenway and Annie Randell, current ARDC directors Neil Turner and Steve Webb, long serving chief steward Bob Taylor and former Calder and Adelaide International Raceway track boss Graham Sellars.

Among the drivers represented were veteran racer Denis Geary, Dick Johnson, John French, Allan Grice and Bo Seton as well as senior members of V8 Supercars including chief operating officer Shane Howard and Damien White (V8SC’s general manager of motorsport).

Stibbard, who was made an honourary member of the ARDC just last year, was remembered for his unstinting energy for motorsport which was his hobby, passion, obsession and career for the large majority of his life.

During a touching service, motor racing chaplain Garry Coleman relayed tributes from the Bathurst Regional Council and from volunteer flaggies from the Amaroo Park days.

Recollections of some of the lighter moments also rose to the fore from the time when Stibbard drank out of a staff members shoe at a restaurant to organising vitamin B shots after a heavy night.

Former track commentator and ARDC board member Bernie King said Stibbard probably took over well before his official date of running The Great Race in 1973.

“In spirit I think Ivan took over when Jack Hinxman (Stibbard’s predecessor) was not up to the mark as he probably should have been,” King said, referring to Hinxman’s ailing health in the late 1960’s.

“In that time Ivan brought in something that probably hadn’t been there before as he was something of an innovator.

“He organised ‘match races’ at one point comprising of two Holdens, two Fords and two Chryslers. They did three laps, then re-grided and did another three …. I don’t know who won, I think the guys who were in them don’t know who won and we actually didn’t care at the time.

“He tried some handicap races once where instead of doing it on times he did it on distance. We were confused at the start and remained confused through the race and are still confused now.

“But seriously in the way he ran a race meeting he was meticulous. He was very loyal to his officials, he was loyal to telecasters, Amaroo Park, sponsors and residents around Mount Panorama.”

Below are a selection of tributes for one of Australia’s longest serving motor racing administrators:

Neil Crompton (commentator): “Ivan Stibbard was the driving force at the Australian Racing Drivers Club (ARDC) for years.

Ivan Stibbard played a gigantic role running great events and unknowingly creating the foundations for what we now enjoy and have enjoyed in motorsport for decades.

Ivan was passionate, dedicated, at times stubborn, tough and always hard-working.

I liked and respected Ivan enormously.

He successfully juggled operations involving the conduct of huge number of annual race meetings, packed with a wide variety of grid-bulging categories and this constant workload backed against the intricacies of balancing the needs of a large club membership.

I last saw Ivan in a surprise visit to the Paddock at Queensland Raceway several years ago.

Ivan was in great spirits. Our jovial chat revealed he was enjoying retirement, clearly relishing a lap of the pit lane to visit old mates and not for one minute wanting to be back at the coalface.

Ivan was a good man who did great things for motorsport participants, sponsors and fans and I’d like to say thank you Ivan.

I was deeply saddened to learn of his passing on Monday.

Ivan Stibbard will be sorely missed and I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife Leonie and the entire family.”

Allan Moffat (four-times Bathurst 1000 winner): “I knew Ivan fondly throughout the ‘70’s up until the ‘80’s and I found him nothing but a gentleman, nothing but sincere and nothing but a hard worker for the ARDC.
He was a loss when management changed at Eastern Creek and now he is a great loss to his family and his friends.”

Kelvin O’Reilly  (former Australian Super Touring boss): “An honorable man who’s word was his bond. A gentleman and a man with unbridled passion for motorsport. Ivan was a rare breed and will be missed.”

Mike Raymond (former Channel 7 Bathurst 1000 commentator): “Ivan Stibbard was a great motor racing administrator, a smart and capable ARDC leader and a wonderful race director at Mount Panorama, Bathurst and Amaroo Park on the outskirts of Sydney.

Ivan listened intently to everyone and learnt his trade well.

He could be hard headed and obstinate at times, but the success of the Great Race at Bathurst was his greatest victory.

The formation of a joint committee, comprising of the ARDC, Channel 7 and James Hardie Industries, paved the way for the overseas invasion of competitors, the Tom Walkinshaw Rovers and Jaguars, the World touring car championship round at Bathurst and so many other firsts.

I was a member of that committee with Geoff Healey, Allan Mewton and Allan Moffat, representing Seven, Ivan, Colin Bond and Phil Harrison, the ARDC and Bruce Ballment from the James Hardie Group.

Travelling overseas broadened his knowledge and my wife Carol and I always looked forward to welcoming Ivan and Leonie whenever they were in Sydney.

He was a great servant of motor sport and deserves his place at the head of the table.”

Phil Harrison (long serving ARDC colleague of Ivan): “In my world Ivan was a good boss, a comforting mentor and good friend.
His management and development of the Bathurst 1000 helped mould Australian motor racing into a sophisticated sport.
I will find it hard to think of Mount Panorama or Amaroo Park without picturing Ivan.
Most importantly I will remember Ivan as a good bloke.”

Dick Johnson: (three-times Bathurst 1000 winner and 5-times Australian touring car champion)“One thing that is not often mention is that he had his wife Leonie there supporting him the whole time and together they were a huge part of the ARDC and Bathurst and Amaroo Park everything else.

Together they were a great team. Ivan was always very helpful and you knew exactly where you stood with him. His passion for what he did was the same passion I had for racing cars. He was a terrific guy who did a magnificent job.”

Brett Murray (motorsport media identity): “Ivan was a true gentleman. As a young journalist and then PR consultant, Ivan and Leonie were always amazingly encouraging and their long-term friendship is something I will always cherish. It was wonderful to have Ivan as one of the guest speakers at our Dick Johnson tribute dinner in 2012. His contribution to Australian motorsport should never be forgotten.”

David Harding (long-time Lakeside promoter): “Ivan and I sat on the promoter’s association and convinced CAMS, way before V8 Supercars began that Holden and Ford were the way to go as indeed it has been. Ivan was a great promoter and a good friend.”

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