Possum Bourne

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Possum Bourne

Peter Raymond George "Possum" Bourne (13 April 1956 – 30 April 2003) was a champion New Zealand rally car driver. He died under non-competitive circumstances while driving on a public road that was to be the track for an upcoming race.


Peter "Possum" Bourne (Rally Queensland 1998)

He was a three time winner of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and the Australian Rally Championship seven times consecutively, amongst many other titles.[1]

Years wonEvent
1991New Zealand Rally Championship
1992Australian Rally Championship (Group N)
1993-1994, 2000Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
1996-2002Australian Rally Championship
1989, 1991, 2000Ashley Forest Rally Sprint
2001Queenstown Race to the Sky
2002Hokkaido Rally Japan
2002Rally New Zealand (Group N)


Bourne lived in Pukekohe, Auckland, near his workshop. He lived with his wife, Peggy Bourne, and three children, Taylor, Spencer, and Jazlin. Bourne earned his nickname, "Possum", on the night he crashed his mother's Humber 80, while trying to avoid a possum in the middle of the road.

His autobiography, Bourne to Rally, was completed just days before his death. A bronze memorial statue of Bourne, unveiled a year after his death, stood overlooking the event he loved the most. The statue was moved to Pukekohe town square in April 2013, unveiled alongside the 2013 ITM 400 V8 Championship parade. In 2005, Peggy Bourne entered Race to the Sky, despite having had no formal rally driving experience, as a tribute to her late husband. In 2013, his oldest son Taylor Bourne competed in the 2013 Possum Bourne Memorial Rally with his stepfather and MP Mark Mitchell as co-driver. When Taylor completed the event, he went on to say "It's easy understand why he loved it so much".

Car of choice[edit]

Bourne was best known for his exploits behind the wheel of Subaru cars, initially the RX (the turbocharged version of the Leone), then the Legacy (rebadged as the Liberty for the Australian market because of a perceived clash with charity organisation Legacy Australia).

But it would be the Impreza WRX that he would become most associated with, driving for the Prodrive Subaru World Rally Team in Rally New Zealand, Australia and also in Indonesia, partnered by Kenneth Eriksson in the mid 1990s, before going on to win multiple Australian titles with his own team.

To congratulate Bourne on his achievements and for promoting Subarus, Subaru Japan even awarded him a black, limited edition Subaru Impreza WRX STi for personal use.


Possum's best friend and co-driver, Dr. Rodger "Roj" Freeth, died in a freak crash during the 1993 Rally Australia, and the crash almost ended Possum's career. After a lot of soul-searching, and encouragement from the Freeth family he returned to the driver's seat aiming to honour Freeth's legacy. From the time of Freeth's death, Bourne displayed a "ROJ" license plate on the front of his rally cars.


Bourne received serious head injuries in a non-competitive car crash on 18 April 2003, and died in Dunedin Public Hospital on 30 April 2003 after life support was withdrawn.[2] He was driving the Race to the Sky track, on the Waiorau Snow Farm Road which is normally a public road, for the event held in Cardrona, near Wanaka, New Zealand.[1] Driving his Subaru Forester, he collided head on with a Jeep Cherokee driven by rally driver Mike Barltrop who claimed that Possum was speeding. This Treachorous road has over 100 corners at least 15 hairpins, hence its suitability for rally driving. Mr Barlthrop was later arrested on a dangerous driving charge.[3] After pleading guilty to aggravated careless use causing death, Barltrop was sentenced in the Invercargill District Court to 300 hours' community work, disqualified from driving for 18 months, and ordered to pay $10,000 reparations, divided between the intensive care unit of Dunedin Public Hospital and the Possum Bourne Education trust.[2]

At the time of his death, Possum had just re-entered the world stage, driving a production-class Subaru Impreza in the PWRC.

Career results[edit]

1983World Rally Championship28thSubaru RX
1984World Rally Championship43rdSubaru RX
1985World Rally Championship51stSubaru RX
1986World Rally Championship49thSubaru RX
1987World Rally Championship23rdSubaru RX
1988World Rally Championship72ndSubaru RX
1989World Rally Championship49thSubaru RX
1990World Rally Championship14thSubaru Legacy RS
1991New Zealand Rally Championship1stSubaru Legacy RS
1992World Rally Championship34thSubaru Legacy RS
1992Australian Rally Championship3rdSubaru Liberty RSPossum Bourne Motorsport
1993World Rally Championship31stSubaru Legacy RS
1993Asia-Pacific Rally Championship1stSubaru Legacy RSPossum Bourne Motorsport
1993Australian Rally Championship3rdSubaru Liberty RSPossum Bourne Motorsport
1994Asia-Pacific Rally Championship1stSubaru Legacy RSPossum Bourne Motorsport
1995World Rally Championship14thSubaru Impreza WRX
1996World Rally Championship26thSubaru Impreza WRX
1996Australian Rally Championship1stSubaru Impreza WRXPossum Bourne Motorsport
1997World Rally Championship15thSubaru Impreza WRX
1997Australian Rally Championship1stSubaru Impreza WRXPossum Bourne Motorsport
1998Australian Rally Championship1stSubaru Impreza WRXPossum Bourne Motorsport
1999World Rally Championship15thSubaru Impreza WRCPossum Bourne Motorsport
1999Australian Rally Championship1stSubaru Impreza WRCPossum Bourne Motorsport
2000World Rally Championship21stSubaru Impreza WRCPossum Bourne Motorsport
2000Asia-Pacific Rally Championship1stSubaru Impreza WRCPossum Bourne Motorsport
2000Australian Rally Championship1stSubaru Impreza WRCPossum Bourne Motorsport
2001Australian Rally Championship1stSubaru Impreza WRCPossum Bourne Motorsport
2002Australian Rally Championship1stSubaru Impreza WRX STiPossum Bourne Motorsport
2003Production World Rally Championship14thSubaru Impreza WRX STiPossum Bourne Motorsport


  1. ^ a b "Kiwi rally hero dies". BBC Sport. 29 April 2003. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  2. ^ a b Devereux, Monique (12 November 2004). "Rally driver sentenced for Possum Bourne's death". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  3. ^ "Possum Bourne crash arrest - Eastern Police news release". New Zealand Police. 11 September 2003. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Ross Dunkerton
Winner of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
1993 & 1994
Succeeded by
Kenneth Eriksson
Preceded by
Neal Bates
Winner of the Australian Rally Championship
1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 & 2002
Succeeded by
Cody Crocker
Preceded by
Katsuhiko Taguchi
Winner of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Succeeded by
Karamjit Singh