Graham Rourke – G17 – Lest we forget

Memorial Race Day – Moorebank Raceway – 31st January – 2010

It was our first state championships at our home track at Brendale. We were novices in amongst a garage filled with the buzz of racing and a gentleman appeared before me, a bronzed warming face and began to have a very Australian “YARN” with me.

He introduced himself as Graham, shook my hand and we enjoyed the banter of like minded model motor-sport enthusiasts that we are. In hindsight, he probably wanted to know who these crazy people are trying to run on a rubbered track with full tyres, regardless, he projected the essence of social quality that our sport has to offer and he did it in a majestic way. Our conversation was hard to remember in amongst the hive of activity, yet the image of him walking over to the eastern end of the garages for the sake of a chat will remain fixed for ever.

We met up again at the National titles in 2008, having him come up to our club from Sydney was thought provoking to say the least. He wasn’t at the pointy end of the field yet his commitment to what we did was inspiring and our short, distant relationship was forged with him being a mentor of commitment for myself and more important, my young sons.

Ultimately in RC racing it’s people we seek to race with, it’s people like G17 that break down the stigmas and stereotypes that are present in many forms of racing and his philosophical views and contributions to our sport were so attractive we could not resist the temptation of visiting him at his home track and participating in the racing with his club mates and his club’s garage atmosphere.

It became very apparent that G17 was loved by many, his warm presence was often met with optimism and he stood and spoke with a casual tone of voice and posture. There was a gentle slant of the neck as he spoke, a lean of an elbow or arm that rested him, one could not help but feel relaxed into a calm state when he spoke. He was generous with advice and some how knew how to tell you where to improve without making you feel worthless, and yes, he was charming, he had a princely manner about him!

My sons raced with him, he was as much a gentleman on track as he was in person. He would give us advice, helped introduce us to the track and for me the most precious attribute was the guardianship he adopted when he saw my sons having a hard time with racing. We shared the best racing we’ve ever had with G17, our struggles on track caused by a radio failure on our first lap of the finals plunged my son Guy into the darkness of feeling of loss, where G17 appeared again and negated it with his classic quote …

“We need more good losers like you, our sport has enough bad winners…”

With plans to return later in the year, a shocking message was read that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. With our own family loss to this incurable cancer, I knew how serious this was, yet G17 faced his destiny openly, with courage and drew his friends closer as we were drawn closer to him. He was suffering from severe pain, he was medicated and he still pursued his passion for our sport and maintained a presence for his RC buddies throughout the coming months.

We returned to Sydney for the national titles, looking around his bench to ensure his name was there, we waited for him to arrive and news was he wasn’t feeling great. We were prepared to drive out to his place and make some Nitro noise in the street to remind him we cared and then he arrived. The same warm stature, bronze face, positive, caring and ready to race and share the passion we have for our model motorsport.

We knew he wasn’t well, there was no point discussing anything, time was precious and his friends were plenty as they prepared his car for him in admiration for his commitment to us and our sport. His presence in our garages was all we cared for and he was there, ready to race and whilst in pain, the same G17 we all loved. He stayed on track for as long as possible, friends like Tomas Boratovic worked on his car for him and we shared one more event with him.

News came that he was struggling and heavier treatments were administered, the tide of his cancer took our friend and on December 22, 2009 and he passed on … Our fond memories will always remain for this princely gentleman, Graham Rourke, RC mentor and guardian… The one and the only G17.

In memory of our friend, I will be attending the Graham Rourke Memorial day to be held at Moorebank Raceway on the 31st of January 2010.