Legendary engine builder and engineer Steve Knott, who had an influence on a generation of young Australian racers, has died after a bulldozer accident on his NSW property.
In a career spanning 50 years, Knott built and prepared competition engines for national and international circuit, off-road, boat and speedway teams through his Competition Engineering business.
Knott, 65, was involved in the sport directly out of high school preparing John Leffler’s Formula Ford and within two years they had won the 1973 national Formula Ford title.
In 1988 Knott met Sydney’s Greg “Pee Wee” Siddle at the Adelaide Grand Prix and within a short amount of time they created a partnership to become the Van Dieman Formula Ford importers for Australia.
Van Diemans had won the Australian Formula Ford Championship in 1987 and 1988 and would go on to win the title for nine more consecutive years starting with Mark Larkham’s win in 1989.
Larkham’s win was followed by Russell Ingall, Troy Dunstan, Cameron McConville, Craig Lowndes, Steve Richards, Jason Bright, David Besnard and Garth Tander.
All those drivers, with the exception of Dunstan who had his own engine building business, went on to become professional full-time drivers.
Knott also had tremendous influence on the careers of many on the technical side of the sport including ex-Formula 1 engineering ace Sam Michael, who worked under Knott on Larkham’s Formula Brabham/Holden program.
“It is incredibly sad news,” Siddle told Speedcafe.com.
“Steve was a racer, a real racer who had an influence on a whole generation of Australian racers.
“He was never one for the publicity or getting his head in the newspaper. He just loved motorsport and getting the most of the cars and the people driving them and working on them.
“His contribution to Australian motorsport is tremendously under-estimated.
“Steve and (wife) Virginia were a tremendous team on the business side of things for so many years.”
Knott also prepared and developed engines for Frank Gardner, Kevin Bartlett, Allan Grice and Charlie O’Brien and also spent two years preparing the Jagermeister Opel Omega for the DTM championship in Germany.
Knott played a role in the early career of Australian Formula One ace and 2015 WEC champion Mark Webber, preparing the engine for his first ever Formula Ford racer at Amaroo Park in Sydney in 1994.
He also worked with Siddle on the development of the Volkswagen team for the Procar Australian GT Production car championship in 2003.
The low-light of that program being the death of talented young driver Stewart McColl in a single-car accident in a practice session at Phillip Island.
“Steve was deeply, deeply hurt by Stewart’s death,” Siddle remembered.
Knott was also a keen off-road racer with his classic VW Karmann Ghia thrilling spectators in the late 80s and early 90s.
It was consistently one of the fastest cars in Class 5 of the Australian off-road championship.
Knott also started Competition Coatings which develops and retails high performance ceramic coatings for heat, wear and friction applications for street and race engines.
Siddle said the reaction within the industry to Knott’s death had been incredible.
“In just a few hours I have had calls from so many in the industry, especially those Van Diemen kids and their families, just reiterating how much Steve did for them,” Siddle said.
More recently Knott was also involved in supplying race engines for the Asian market.
Knott passed away on his property at Maroota, 50km north-west of Sydney, and is survived by his wife Virginia.
Speedcafe.com offers is condolences to Virgina and all of Knott’s friends and family.
Funeral details are yet to be made available.