'Possum' Bourne dies

Peter 'Possum' Bourne - the multiple FIA Asia-Pacific, Australian and New Zealand rally champion - has died, aged 47. His family took the decision to switch off life support after he was gravely injured in an accident at the Race to the Sky hillclimb meeting in New Zealand two weeks ago. A family statement said: "It is with deep sadness that we announce Possum Bourne passed away peacefully at 12.58am on Wednesday, April 30, at Dunedin Hospital."

'Possum' Bourne dies

In a career that spanned more than 20 years, 'Possum' (christened Peter but nicknamed after he crashed his mother's car avoiding a possum) developed a huge following, nurtured by prodigious pace and a refreshing, down-to-earth personality. His demeanour was so cheerful and full of energy and enthusiasm that conversation could leave you drained.

He was fast enough to be successful, too, racking up seven Australian titles and winning the Asia-Pacific crown three times. When the WRC went down under, 'Possum' was a thorn in the side of works crews. On his home event, he had six top-six finishes to his name.

Bourne had fought through tragedy, too, for he had to cope with the death of his co-driver Rodger Freeth in an accident on the Rally Australia in 1993. Thereafter, his cars often carried the registration 'Roj' as a tribute. He commented: "If I'd given up or if I hadn't seen it through, he would have died for nothing."

A family man with two sons and a daughter, Bourne had waited a long time for his chance on the world stage, and was determined to grab it this season. His family and friends have lost a truly special person; the world of rallying will sorely miss one of its friendliest faces.

John McIlroy's full obituary will be in Autosport magazine

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