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Bob Levett won't be at Goodwood this year...


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#1 Ray Bell

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 00:06

I've mentioned Bob many times as he accompanied me on a lot of my trips and motor racing adventures in the sixties and seventies...

He and I used to go visit the likes of Frank Matich, Brian Muir, Niel Allen and many more in our spare time. Then we joined the AARC together and we spent a lot of time with Geoff Sykes together. We flag marshalled together at Point M at Warwick Farm from September 1965 until the flag point was done away with, then we flagged at Creek Corner together for a few more meetings. Until 1970 we worked in the same Government Department and so on. He was for a long time my closest friend.

Over the past few years he's been to Goodwood for the fabulous events there, he recently booked his flights to go again this year, but the seats will go empty.

Even so, all of our conversations lead inevitably back to those halcyon days of the sixties and the expression that "We saw the best of it!"

This morning I, along with everyone else in his e.mail address book, got the sad news that he'd died in his sleep on Wednesday night. Bob had nursed a blood pressure problem for over twenty years, but it will only be after an autopsy that anyone will know for sure.

Totally unexpected, he was living a good life and enjoying himself enormously. His new home in Cairns might have been somewhat distant from a lot of his friends, but he recently took a trip to Melbourne and the Gold Coast to catch up with some of them.

He was full of life, just a couple of years into retirement and making the most of it. There are hundreds of people who will be affected by his passing, who will reflect on great moments spent with him over the years. He had lives I didn't know much about, like running the Civic Club at Manly, his many acquaintances made while travelling all over NSW with his work and many more. I guess that means he was larger than life?

I hope those he would have met this year at Goodwood will have a drink in his memory. Roger, as the one most affected, I know I can count on you for that.

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#2 fines

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 07:57

Sorry to hear that, Ray! My condolences. :(

#3 bradbury west

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 10:32

Ray, this is such sad news. We got back last night after a couple of weeks in France and Gregg's e mail was in among all the other e mails as I sorted through them this morning. It came as such a shock. When we met Bob 18 months ago in Cairns via your good offices he was the definitive genial and generous host to me and Mrs RL and we have kept in touch since. During our time there he was always so very understated and unassuming, invariably the case with those who have done a lot and been about a fair bit. As you know, we were very much looking forward to having him spend some time here with us prior to Goodwood. It makes us aware of our mortality. To us he was a super bloke who represented the very opposite of the essayist Ruskin's words, that a man wrapped up in himself presents a very small package. We will miss him and drink to his memory.
Roger Lund

#4 Ray Bell

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 11:33

I can tell you, Roger, that he thoroughly enjoyed the DVDs you sent him recently... his enthusiasm for the sport never waned and it's once again being proven what a shame it was he never posted here. In fact, I talked to him about that just a week or two ago...

I know he would have been in his element meeting up with your various companions at Goodwood, there would have been an enormous interchange of information going on for whatever time he could have spent with you all.

His earlier days, however, didn't see him as such an unassuming and understated type at all. He was always living life to the full in his own way, I guess I would be remiss if I didn't illustrate this with a picture of him competing in a Manly Warringah Sporting Car Club event in his favourite car:

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And though it looks bulky alongside all those more 'sporting' cars, it had some grunt and he drove it with verve:

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Of course, as a more 'refined gentleman' in his latter days, he bought this Falcon, the car he owned during his retirement:

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I've related previously about how we drove half a lap each morning at Warwick Farm to get to our flag points, then completed the lap at the end of the day to go back to the pits. The idea that you were sedate driving these half-laps did occur to us... but not always...

One day Bob spun that Chrysler in the esses. The following week, when we visited the AARC office, Geoff invited us in (as usual) to his inner sanctum and raised the subject.

"Did you have a lose in the Chrysler the other day, Bob?" he asked. Bob was pretty nervous about this, thinking perhaps a remonstration might follow, but confessed. "Yes," he said sheepishly.

But Geoff wasn't out to punish anyone. "I thought it must have been. It's not a problem, I just wanted to know who it was," he said.

This all happened behind me... I generally outbraked him into Creek and got away through the esses...

#5 Ray Bell

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 11:46

While we're at it... here's a couple of pics from more distant times...

1965, I suspect, at Sandown Park for the Tasman race:

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And this is our flag point at Warwick Farm, I'm holding the blue flag, Bob has the checked shirt on and is back to camera, young brother Gregg Levett is beside him and Malcolm Smith has the hat on:

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this picture, of course, does little justice to the magnificent opportunity this point gave us to watch the racing. This, literally, was where we saw "the best of it."

#6 Ray Bell

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Posted 28 April 2008 - 13:15

I've received an e.mail... the daughter of one of Bob's friends found this thread and wrote to me:

Hi Ray

I am Bob Levett's goddaughter (daughter of Bruce Taylor who was also a mate of Bob's) and I just came across your tribute to Uncle Bob on the Atlas F1 Bulletin.

I just wanted to say thanks - he would have been really touched by that - we all know how much he loved his motor racing!

Like you we are all in shock - it was too soon, too sudden but the good thing was that he was living life on his terms, doing what he wanted and I guess he himself would have agreed he'd had a bloody brilliant life!

I was just wondering if it would be possible to email the photos you have - I would like to get them printed for my Dad- he was mates with him from when he was 15 and did a fair bit of motor racing with him.

Thanks again, Ray

Kylie Taylor


Thank you Kylie. I will find the hi-res versions of those pics and e.mail them to you.

#7 seldo

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Posted 29 April 2008 - 13:48

Thanks for the posts Ray - when you rang me to advise me of Bob's passing, I'm sorry, but I couldn't relate the name to the face. Now I do.
Being the same age it's a bit scary, but it reinforces the fact that this isn't just a dress-rehearsal...
RIP Bob....

#8 Ray Bell

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Posted 29 April 2008 - 20:10

Originally posted by seldo
.....I couldn't relate the name to the face. Now I do.....


Thanks, David...

He was out there in the Clubman scene when you were around, particularly flitting between my car, Graeme Baird's car and Ian Field's Welsor. He wasn't much help around the cars, but could be a decent 'gofer' and was a good friend to each of us. He loved being there.

But his lack of personal involvement other than as a flaggie meant that nobody knew his name... he was just a familiar face. David McKay and Mike Kable knew him, of course, because I spent a lot of time with Mike and Bob was about at the time and we always chatted with David at race meetings. As mentioned, we frequently visited Muiro before he went to England, Frank Matich and Niel Allen, so they knew him by name. All the AARC people knew him, of course, and Max because we used to constantly phone RCN to find out if the magazine was printed and catch a train to Central and get one before they were in the shops.

#9 bradbury west

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Posted 22 September 2008 - 22:51

Ray, just to let you know that a toast to Bob's memory was duly made. He would have loved the meeting this year, one of the very best I have seen. By a most amazing circumstance he was remembered separately in the Lavant stands. In the seats immediately behind me were 3 Australians, over here for the Revival. As you do, in between races, a conversation was struck up starting with Brock's visit in the Holden 2 years ago. ( I am grateful for the Oz photo thread and the history of Holden racing on TNF......) It transpired that these chaps were Alf and Harry Bargwanna, along with David Noakes, and what good company they were, Sydney-siders to a man, I understand, and involved in historic Holden racing. Bob would have been pleased.
Roger Lund

#10 Ray Bell

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Posted 23 September 2008 - 02:25

Absolutely... the Bargwanna family are a great bunch!

No doubt they encouraged you to visit next time you're in Australia?

Alf and Harry were particularly big in hillclimbing in Toranas, but they spread their wings to encompass regular sports sedan racing at Oran Park and Amaroo.

My mobile phones have lots of contacts on them, and as I scroll through these days I find the names of Bob, my youngest brother Rob and Bill from down the south coast... all useless now. It's left a fit of a hole in my life, but I keep remembering that life is still for the living.

I worry that I'll finish up phoning Barry Boor just to have some company...

Thank you Roger for your thoughts and kind words.

#11 Catalina Park

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Posted 23 September 2008 - 07:12

Originally posted by bradbury west
Ray, just to let you know that a toast to Bob's memory was duly made. He would have loved the meeting this year, one of the very best I have seen. By a most amazing circumstance he was remembered separately in the Lavant stands. In the seats immediately behind me were 3 Australians, over here for the Revival. As you do, in between races, a conversation was struck up starting with Brock's visit in the Holden 2 years ago. ( I am grateful for the Oz photo thread and the history of Holden racing on TNF......) It transpired that these chaps were Alf and Harry Bargwanna, along with David Noakes, and what good company they were, Sydney-siders to a man, I understand, and involved in historic Holden racing. Bob would have been pleased.
Roger Lund

Alf, Harry and David are all great blokes, I raced against their sons.

#12 fines

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Posted 23 September 2008 - 09:08

I recall an OW racer Jason Bargwanna - a son?

#13 Catalina Park

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Posted 23 September 2008 - 09:50

Originally posted by fines
I recall an OW racer Jason Bargwanna - a son?

Yes, Jason is Harry's son.
Alf is the father of Scott.

#14 Ray Bell

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 22:07

Originally posted by fines
I recall an OW racer Jason Bargwanna - a son?


Of course he moved on to a professional level and races sedans now...

Just musing over this thread and I thought I'd mention Bob's funeral. Though it's now almost 18 months ago, it struck me that the thread is incomplete without it.

Bob had friends in Tweed Heads, where he was on the committee of the Surf Club, and Sydney where he'd lived for over fifty years and also been a committeeman (President, I think, too) of the Manly Club. So he had services at both places... this was provided for in his will, along with specific instructions about what would happen after the service.

Bob liked to party. He really did. So the Surf Club became the scene of a wake with lots of food and drink. But all of it was what Bob liked to eat and drink. This suited me because I also like prawns. And some of the other stuff. Similarly, in Sydney there was a wake of grand proportions done the same way.

At the services his nephews and close friends, and Gregg of course, spoke about him lovingly. He was respected and beloved of many and it showed. Today I often think of things I'd like to check with him and I can't.. but the same applies to my younger brother, who died in August, and my father, who died in December. Along with young Billy's death (an old and frivolous friend of mine, stepson of a former good friend, but not so old... just 49) just three weeks before Bob, 2008 was a pretty bad year for me.

I'll post up some photos later that I re-shot from Bob's albums at the wake.

#15 Ray Bell

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 12:04

I had to look up this thread again tonight...

Over the weekend I interviewed in Moree, one of my respondents there turned out to have been one of the vast number of people Bob knew in the NSW towns he frequently visited in his job. So I directed him to this thread, but it reminded me that I hadn't posted those photos.

Here's one the weekend I had the use of the works 240Z rally car. This was the week after the Southern Cross Rally, IIRC, I went over to Bob's on the Saturday with my wife and baby, then I took it to the Catalina Rallycross on the Sunday. Bob had a short drive while my wife took my son in to meet his mother:

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Note the race-car pics in the background.

It's been mentioned that we drove around Warwick Farm to get to our flag point. Homestead Corner was pretty quick, but the old Chrysler Royal still got a bit of attitude through there:

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All atmosphere: our good friend Barry Fogwell and girlfriend at the early-morning Bathurst camping area campfire:

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Bob's service to the clubs he joined was recognised:

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As was his ability to join in the lively activities at the bar:

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Finally, Bob was always impressed with cars of all types, even though he wasn't mechanically minded. This Dodge Phoenix belonged to an acquaintance of his and he wanted a pic for his album:

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Judging by his appearance in that pic, the car must have been pretty new at the time.