(died November 2019)
I am presenting a tribute to Noel’s involvement with three motoring events that I was responsible for – Classic Adelaide, Red Centre to Gold Coast Rally (Alice Springs to Surfers Paradise) and Classic Outback Trial, the latter based firstly in outback New South Wales and then at Alice Springs.
Classic Adelaide was a major international motor sport event – a tarmac rally – as well as a major tourist attraction for South Australia. It commenced in 1997 and I joined the event in 2002 and was the Clerk of Course until I retired after the 2005 event – an involvement for four years.
To give an idea of its size in 2002 we had 125 vehicles (serious competitors and tourers) for the four day event through the Adelaide Hills and this increased in 2003 and again in 2004, and then in 2005 we attracted in all 315 vehicles, a 150 percent increase over 2002, mostly Classic Car competitors. It was a mammoth task to plan and conduct the event efficiently within the road closure time granted by the Police, and conduct it safely for competitors and the public.
As Clerk of Course I was responsible for all the activities associated with the planning and conduct of the event ‘on the road’.
The road activities organisation structure was a pyramid one – with the Clerk of Course at the head, and two Area Coordinators at the next level, and then the chain of command broadened out to Stage Commanders and their officials – some 30 officials per stage of which there were some 35 stages. Stages with road intersections required extra officials to close the roads to the public so they did not enter the competitive stage where they could meet the high speed rally cars.
The responsibility of the two Area Coordinators, who were both volunteers, was very broad. They were responsible for obtaining and training of 1000 plus officials to carry out the task of conducting the event on the closed-to-public roads over four hours or so.
Now, these two Area Coordinators were known as ‘Heckle and Jeckle’ (named by Targa Tasmania Clerk of Course Ken Roddam when the pair visited that event one year). Otherwise they were known as Noel Claridge -Area Coordinator South, and Trevor Fisher – Area Coordinator North. With these two I am still, 15 years later, not sure where the line was that created the north and south areas.
Frankly, although I was supposed to be their leader, I often didn’t know who was in charge of which area – so closely did they work together – it was a case of ‘’I’m their leader – show me which way they went”.
They certainly took on enormous responsibility in carrying out their tasks – as soon as one year was finished it was matter of reviewing that year, the event was conducted in November, and starting to plan the next year.
Noel and Trevor – I do prefer Heckle and Jeckle!! – provided the leadership and developed the dedication and unsparing cheerfulness of the thousand plus volunteer officials who carried out the multitude of activities ‘on the road’. The officials provided a lofty height of professionalism and their personal stamp of goodwill left many competitors – of which there were a goodly number from overseas – with a most favourable impression of the event, and also for the overseas competitors, of Australia.
Year after year newcomers to the event were astonished and delighted with the abilities and positive attitudes displayed by the roadside officials, sometimes in quite hot weather. That these attributes were on display was mainly due to the leaders of those officials – Heckle and Jeckle.
So, Jason, Danny and Ben, be very proud of Dad for his contribution, in conjunction with ‘Jeckle’, to Classic Adelaide in building the event up to be ‘one of the worlds’ great rallies’.
Early in my time Heckle came to the Classic Adelaide office with the front of his shirt out of his pants and I sort of reprimanded him by bellowing to him ‘’tuck your bloody shirt in Heckle”. Well, that started something, for many times thereafter I am sure, out of sight of my office, he pulled either the front or rear of his shirt out of his pants and nonchalantly came in to see me, braced for my reaction of “For goodness sake Noel how many times do I have to say it – tuck your bloody shirt in.”
It was all good fun.
Nothing was too much trouble for Heckle (and Jeckle); often just a hint of some issue that needed attention was picked up by him and action taken to correct the situation.
After Classic Adelaide I became involved with the seven day Alice Springs to Gold Coast Rally in 2008 and Classic Outback Trial, which was conducted through the Australian Outback. Noel teamed up with life-long friend Jeff Lomman and carried out the officiating role of sending off the competitors each morning and greeting them back each evening. They were involved from 2009 to 2016.
I would like to conclude with a message I sent Noel — sorry, I mean Heckle – on his 60th birthday ten years ago, as I think it is still a most appropriate farewell:
… since I have known you, thank you for your support in what we have done together (with others!), but more so, thank you so much for your wonderful companionship, which one does not tire of.