The face behind the rallies


In a series, reporter Shawn McAvinue spends five minutes talking with Dunedin motorsport enthusiasts about their passion for their form of racing.

Five minutes with . . . Motorsport New Zealand board member and Otago Rally committee chairman Norman Oakley.

How did you get into motorsport?

I grew up with it. My father Bob was an instigator of a Dunedin street race in 1953. I bought a rally car in the mid 1980s and raced for about five years.

How did you go?

I was never any good. My ambition exceeded my capabilities.

What sort of rally car did you have?

I had a couple. I destroyed my first one, a Datsun 1200 and then a Datsun 1600.

When did you give up competing?

The late 1980s and I got involved in event organisation and administration for Otago Sports Car Club and I’ve fulfilled most roles on the committee. Most clubs belong to the governing body Motorsport New Zealand and I’ve had various governance roles on it since the mid 1990s.

What is the most rewarding part of the work?

I got hooked on organising the annual Otago Rally. It was quite a small event but it’s now the biggest event of its type in New Zealand.

Why did you want to keep connected to motorsport?

Because of the people mainly and to be part of group of people who are trying to make Otago Rally as good as it could be. It always gives you a certain sense of satisfaction.

Is the committee still aiming to make Otago Rally the best it can be?

We never run the same event twice, so we are always trying to innovate or do something different.

When did you decide you wanted to dedicate time to the sport?

It was in 1973, I was a young teenager and rallying was in its formative years in New Zealand. I went to watch an international night rally, about 3am, around this time of year, on the gravel of Leith Valley Rd. I was among spectators standing by a bonfire and headlights appeared and a car rushed past. I remember thinking, this is cool.