Questions with...

Questions with: Tom Snooks

Tom Snooks is probably *the* most experienced rally organiser in Australia and he’s leading the COT team. Let’s hear Tom’s thoughts as we get closer to the COT in Alice Springs.

What’s your usual role on the COT? What do you do? What do you drive out there?
My role in COT is that of Clerk of Course. It’s different to the usual CoC role in that I don’t go out surveying the course, so I miss out on the pleasures of the course drives to set the event. These tasks are carried out by Phil and Steve, although I do have plenty of Melbourne-based ‘armchair’ input into the broad course philosophy, event scheduling and, in particular, safety aspects. During the event I hold the reins at Rally Control, keeping track of the goings-on while Phil and Steve continue to have a good time driving in the bush! Overnight I handle any issues associated with the competitors, the Stewards, ensure the production of the results and supervise the flow of paperwork.

Tom at the competitor briefing, COT 2014.

Tom at the competitor briefing, COT 2014.

Who will be traveling with you? What’s your history as a team?
In a sense I ‘travel’ with many people who are officiating – CAMS Checker, Course Crews, Competitor Relations Officer, Medical Team, Overnight Stop Officials, Publicity Crew, Results Crew, Road Crews, Scrutineers, Stewards. All will contribute greatly to the event, and the Team’s ability to conduct a successful event has been, over the years, very evident.

You’ve been an official on the COT before… what do you like about the event – what has bought you back?
I enjoy being on any event – so many after 50 years – but events conducted in the Outback have their own special atmosphere and charm. In particular the Red Centre is an amazing place…. it grabs you with its colours, its light, its vastness and the ambiance can soak deeply into your soul. It’s a special place in which to rally!

What are your expecting from the 2016 COT; what are you looking forward to?
Expecting? More what am I hoping for – a successful and, above all else, a safe rally; and to share the camaraderie that comes with being involved with a motor sport event, especially COT in which competitors, service crews and officials are closely entwined. I’m specially looking forward to a successful event as Bob Carpenter and I set up to conduct a Southern Cross International Rally based at Alice Springs in 1991 – but had to withdraw when financial backing from Japan fell through at the very last moment. This was a very big disappointment at the time and one that has stayed with both of us.

Have you been to Alice Springs before? What are you expecting or looking forward to seeing?
Been there numerous times with the Wynn’s and Australian Safari, as well as on other occasions. When Phil hinted in 2013 at the possibility of conducting the COT based at Alice Springs I jumped at the opportunity to encourage him to do so, after consideration of a number of factors of course. It won’t happen this time due to the time of the year for COT but numerous times I have been in the Red Centre after heavy rains and the countryside was totally transformed into a garden of flowers.

Pics from the Red Centre after rain, by Bob Carpenter, 2000

Pics from the Red Centre after rain, by Bob Carpenter, 2000

What is your rallying and officiating background? How did you become part of the COT team?
Do you REALLY want me to state this!!! I competed as a navigator and won the WA Navigators Championship in …. wait for it … 1967 (one consolation – it’s not yet 50 years ago!!!). Navigated in NSW State and ARC events after moving to Sydney in 1970, and finished navigating in 1980. Son Justyn talked me into navigating for him in the Alpine Rally in 2001 and, to my great surprise, and may I say, satisfaction, we finished 10th – and there were some 80 starters!!

I have officiated as Clerk of Course or Administrator in many national events and the list includes: 1971/72 Dulux Rally, 1973-77 Southern Cross Rally, 1976-80 Total Oil Economy Run, 1979 Repco
Round Australia Trial, 1985-92 Wynn’s/Australian Safari, 1993-2003 Targa Tasmania, 1995 Mobil Round Australia Trial, 1998 Playstation Round Australia Rally, 1999-2002 Australian Safari, 2000-2003 Grand Prix Rally, 2002-2005 Classic Adelaide; the 2000, 2002 & 2007 Porsche Customer Tour, 2008 Red Centre to Gold Coast Trial, 2009/10, 2012 and 2014 COT and 2009-2013 State Bega Valley Rally. And, there have been many lower level events.

How did I get involved in COT? Well, Bob Watson asked (?) me to be part of the Red Centre event in 2008 and this flowed onto working with Phil on the COT. Phil and I had worked together on numerous previous events so we knew each other well enough to know we could work together.

Tom offering friendly directional advice on COT 2010 in Forbes.

Tom offering friendly directional advice on COT 2010 in Forbes.

What is you most memorable COT moment – what sticks in your mind?
I don’t have the excitement of being out in the bush so I have to get my ‘moments’ elsewhere. I do experience a great feeling of satisfaction at the COT presentations, watching and listening to the competitors and officials as they wind down, and thinking just what enjoyment and pleasure such events bring to so many competitors and officials. There is something very special about COT.

Gary Searle and Tom enjoying a moment at a COT presentation

Garry Searle and Tom enjoying a moment at the COT 2009 presentation on the Gold Coast

What is/was your favourite rally car?
Frankly, I am not interested in cars and not at all technically minded. But from so much time in the sport I have observed many cars and my vote for the car that I consider has been of the greatest service to the sport would be the …………Datsun 1600 and its derivatives. It has contributed so much to Australian rallying, first of all at higher level events, and for many, many years at lower level events right across the nation – and still does!

Hard at work in Bourke on the Red Centre to Gold Coast - with someone watching over his shoulder.

Republican Tom hard at work at Rally HQ in Bourke on the Red Centre to Gold Coast – with someone watching over his shoulder.

What is your most memorable rallying moment?
The MOST memorable moment? Goodness, that rattles the memory. I would like to claim ‘moments’ and these would be from the 1977 to 1979 Australian Rally Championship rallying period (the ‘Golden Years’ to us real Oldies) when I represented Total Oil in its sponsorship of the Datsun Rally Team. Those who were involved at the time will never forget those terrific, dare I say exhilarating, tussles between Greg Carr and Colin Bond (Ford Escort) with George Fury and Ross Dunkerton (Datsun 710 and Stanza), and Wayne Bell (Gemini) over those years. And do let me name the navigators – Fred Gocentas, John Dawson-Damer, Monty Suffern, Jeff Beaumont and George Shepheard; and let’s not forget the service crews who were so much part of the spectacle. Wonderful competition, wonderful camaraderie.

Which event has given me the most satisfaction in organising? It’s a real toss-up but three stand out in my mind – 1976 Southern Cross Rally, 2000 Targa Tasmania and 2005 Classic Adelaide. Thanks to the many officials involved they ran ….. well, in hindsight anyway ……perfectly. And I have a very warm glow when I think of the 1995 and 1998 Round Australia Trials. All were giants of events for numbers of participants involved and/or distances covered.

What will you be doing to get ready for the 2016 COT?
Assisting Phil and Steve with some of the administrative side of the event, closely studying the regulations and trying to stay fit enough to carry out my role satisfactorily.

Tom and the team, Steve, Tom and Philip, enjoying the presentation at COT 2014 in Renmark.

Steve, Tom and Philip enjoying the presentation at COT 2014 in Renmark.

Where are you, and what are you doing as you answer these questions?
At my desk in Melbourne writing up a draft Strategic Plan for the CAMS Off Road Commission!!!

Thanks Tom… it’s great to have you with us again in Alice Springs.  We’ll make sure we get you out with us – perhaps looking for wildflowers…