Peter "Possum" Bourne (1956-2003)

Possum Bourne Subaru

Possum Bourne was living a boyhood dream at the time of his death. New Zealand's top rally driver did not look or act like the 47 years old he was. His passion and enthusiasm for the sport made him seem at least 10 years younger. Brought up in the Te Kauwhata area where his parents were farmers, Possum later shifted to Pukekohe where he lived ever since.

His ability behind the wheel made him world class and for three years - 1993 to 1995 - he drove for the full Subaru works factory team run by the English company Prodrive.

In his 40s, at a time when many drivers are past their best, Possum had matured as a driver to produce the best performances of his career.

Success in the sport did not come easily. He did not compete in his first rally until 1979 when he was already 23 years old. But the talent was immediately obvious when he finished third from a 48th seeding. On a limited budget Possum did not tackle a large number of events in his early years in the sport.

In 1983 he attracted the backing of New Zealand's Subaru distributor and his name has become synonymous with the brand he remained loyal to ever since.

Possum's career developed with Subaru, at a time when the cars were not the most powerful or sophisticated. From 1986 on he drove for a partial factory team from Japan in a limited number of international events in places as diverse as Kenya, Argentina, Britain, Australia, the United States and New Zealand.

When Subaru produced the more competitive Legacy RS for the 1990 season and then the Impreza WRX from 1994 onwards, Possum's career flourished, although he was often still only doing a handful of events a year, compared to the dozen or more the top world championship drivers were competing in.

Possum won the Asia Pacific Championship three times in 1993, 1994 and 2000. On the first two occasions it was with the factory works team. He took particular pleasure in achieving his third success in 2000 with his own Pukekohe based team, which had to plan and execute the logistics of the whole campaign.

He was the seven times consecutive Australian champion from 1996 to 2002, a record. He won the New Zealand title in 1991.

On eight occasions Possum was the first New Zealand driver on the World Championship Rally of New Zealand, finishing in the top six on several occasions against the world's best. With those performances he could justifiably claim to be a world class driver.

He won events in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, China and Japan as well as on both sides of the Tasman.

He was the dominant figurehead in the sport in New Zealand for the last 15 years, yet many of his best performances occurred internationally.

Since 1992 most of his competition was in Australia or further afield, yet he retained and enhanced his profile as New Zealand's top driver. Among his best drives were fourth on the Rally of Australia in 1990 in a heavy, mildly modified Legacy RS.

Victory in Indonesia in 1993 - his first "true" international win, was particularly sweet, as the last success with long time co-driver and mate, the late Rodger Freeth.

A win in the marathon 1994 Hong Kong to Beijing Rally came against the odds and set him up for the successful defence of his Asia Pacific title.

His best performance on the Rally of NZ came in 1987 with third place. But he valued the fifths gained in 1997 and 1999 much more. Competing against far stronger fields of factory works teams when he was driving an older car with much fewer resources at his disposal brought out the best in Possum as he rose to the challenge presented.

Possum had an unquenchable passion for rallying and was always totally positive about the sport. Never one to dwell on any set back, he would analyse what had gone wrong and plan ahead for a new goal.

Possum enjoyed challenges and after a decade of top performances in a succession of highly modified Group A and World Rally Cars, he relished winning the Australian championship in a standard production Impreza STI in 2002.

Critics across the Tasman said he could not change to the lower powered class of car successfully. He proved them wrong.

Apart from his ability behind the wheel, Possum's practical engineering experience ensured his cars were as competitive as possible, as he started working life as an apprentice mechanic.

Possum's personality was like a breath of fresh air. He could relate to people at all levels and went out of his way to talk to fans and sign autographs. He could keep audiences enthralled for hours sharing his experiences in his own down to earth style.

Possum did everything 100 percent. His competitive nature would not allow anything less.

Summary of Awards

  • 1979 Starts rallying in New Zealand. Nicknamed "Possum" after he crashed trying to avoid hitting a possum.
  • 1983 Joins Subaru.
  • 1991 Wins New Zealand Rally Championship.
  • 1992 Wins ARC Class Championship, Group A.
  • 1993 First international win - Indonesia. Wins Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.
  • 1994 Wins Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.
  • 1996 Wins Australian Rally Championship, Group A.
  • 1997 Wins Australian Rally Championship.
  • 1998 Wins Australian Rally Championship.
  • 1999 Wins Australian Rally Championship.
  • 2000 Wins Australian Rally Championship. Wins his 3rd Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.
  • 2001 Wins record 6th Australian Rally Championship. Subaru Impreza WRC 2000.
  • 2002 Wins 7th Australian Rally Championship. New production based championship. Subaru Impreza WRX; 6 wins out of 12.
  • 2003 World Rally championship - Production Cars. Australian Rally championship.