It’s five years today since our Kiwi friend left us – today V8 Sleuth remembers the Hall of Famer and details a special item …
THE V8 Sleuth office is full of all sorts of motor racing memorabilia collected from a nearly 20-year career as working member of the Australian motorsport industry.
There are signed prints, money-can’t-buy items and all sorts of interesting items collected along the journey from working in TV, for race teams and of course under the V8 Sleuth banner.
But one single bottle remains the most special item at V8 Sleuth HQ.
If you’re a regular follower of V8 Sleuth’s Aaron Noonan you may have read about this special item before – a signed bottle of wine from back in 2005.
It remains unopened, a timely reminder to us all of a guy that left this world far, far too soon.
The Sleuth himself takes up the story.
“In a former life I spent a fantastic two and a half years working as a media manager within Pemberton Publicity in Melbourne for Holden Motorsport,” he recalls.
“For the 2005 V8 Supercar season I was given the role of looking after Tasman Motorsport and its Dodo-backed Commodore as it moved from Sydney to Melbourne and expanded to two cars with the arrival of a young Jamie Whincup to pair with foundation pilot Jason Richards.
“In short, that season is one of the most memorable from my career for many reasons – but mainly because of Jason.
“He drove me crazy by always being late to things and I quickly learnt to blatantly lie to him. It was better to tell ‘JR’ a time 30 minutes earlier than you needed him because you knew he would be 30 minutes late – and thus right on time!
“When Jamie and Jason paired up at Sandown and came home third to finish on the podium for the first time in their V8 Supercar careers – and for the first time for the Tasman team which had grown out of the old Lansvale Smash Repairs outfit – it was indeed special stuff.
“While we all went out and drank and danced up a storm later that night, it was something JR did in the wake of that day that struck a chord with me – and still does to this day.
“Post-race, he gave everyone in the team a bottle of bubbly (albeit cheap, no doubt that was being saved up for the first win!) with a personalised hand-written message in gold marker pen on the bottle thanking them for their efforts.
“It said: ‘Aaron, cheers to your hard work.’
“He’d even gone so far as to get printed up a new label for the bottle with a photo of the rain-soaked team celebrating the finish on the pit straight entitled ‘The First Taste’.
“It was a very nice touch and showed how appreciative he was of everyone’s work in helping he and Jamie achieve that result.
“A year or so later we took a road trip down to Avalon speedway near Geelong for JR to sample a Sprintcar. Returning back to Melbourne we stopped in at my apartment of the time and he spotted the unopened bottle he had given me in the glass cabinet in my lounge.
“He asked me why it was still unopened – he said he had bought it so people could enjoy the result and ‘taste’ of success.
“I said I just didn’t reckon it was something I wanted to open. I wanted to leave it exactly as it was as a great momento of a great day.”
And it still sits in that very state at V8 Sleuth HQ, surrounded by a few model cars from JR’s brief but fondly-remembered Supercars career.
Today, five years from his passing we stop to remember a son, father and racer we all miss very much.
But while December 15 always remains a tough day, really he’s remembered at V8 Sleuth HQ every day by the number one memorabilia item we possess.
Here’s JR’s last race at Bathurst in Touring Car Masters in 2011 from onboard – enjoy Racin’ Jason ripping up the Mountain!