Pontus – A tribute

How We Met and Afterwards

After the ‘93 Targa Tasmania, during which I was Operations Consultant, I became Clerk of Course for the ‘94 event and held this position until my retirement following the 2003 event, when Ken Roddam was ready to take over the Clerk of Course position.

Late in ‘93, when the ‘94 event planning was starting, I received a telephone call from Pontus, who I didn’t know, asking if he could meet me at Longford on my next trip around the course to discuss an opportunity for him to be more involved with the event.

We met one afternoon and stood on the footpath opposite the Tabernacle Building in Wellington Street, talking for well over a half hour – I went away not understanding very much of what Pontus had said, due to his accent.

Back in Hobart, in discussions with my colleagues on how we could involve Pontus, I referred to him as ‘’that Dutchman in Longford’’ – you see, I couldn’t remember his name, let alone pronounce it.

Actually, he was of Swedish background and I later found out he was most indignant that I called him a Dutchman, and thus I found a way to stir him up – like at the Organising Committee meetings saying something like – ‘’the Dutchman would now like to say something’’, which he did, but only after intensely glaring look at me – ah, it was all such good fun.

Pontus served his apprenticeship, so to speak, as a multiple Stage Commander in the northern area, based at Launceston, and graduated to be the Area Coordinator North in 1997, a position he held until 2001.

In 2002 and 2003 we had Pontus on special duties related to what we now call risk assessment and safety on a great variety of issues.

Me and Pontus at the Bar

Over the years Pontus proved to be a tower of strength on the Organising Committees and he had many ideas for improvements to the event – like so many others he had Targa Tasmania buried deep in his soul.

Now, he often transmitted some of his ideas to me after organising committee meetings, at the bar at the Country Club in Launceston and Wrest Point Casino in Hobart, our meetings often being held at these locations.

At the Country Club, when the Casino Bar closed at 1am, it was then down to the lower level bar to continue. Mind you, after the meetings, we didn’t get to the first bar until around 11pm. He had what seemed to be unlimited number of ideas on an unlimited number of topics related to the event, but I also learnt much else from Pontus.

On numerous occasions I tried hard to take in what he said, but after a few drinks this became difficult due to his accent, which naturally thickened as the night went on. After some time, my colleagues excused themselves and I was left alone with Pontus. On these occasions I somehow nodded, or shook my head at the right time, and mostly answered him as if I understood what he said.

At those sessions, as a man of the land, I also earnt much from him about sheep and cows and how the weather affects different types of grass, and much else besides. But it all brought the pair of us closer together.

There are so many memories of Pontus in those early days of Targa Tasmania, with so many tales to tell, but given space restraints just now I’ll leave these as being between myself, Pontus and those who were with us.

Safety

Spectator safety was a high priority with Pontus, as well as the location of officials. In his area of responsibility, he paid extra special attention to this form of safety, trying to anticipate where cars may go astray and working out the best locations for spectators and officials, particularly those located at the flying finish – what with cars passing at speeds in excess of 200 km/h, anything that caused them to
leave the road would be devastating.

When I went around the course on my Clerk of Course checks it was a rather ‘fleeting inspection’ as I learnt to accept Pontus’ advice and did not have to closely examine what he planned.

Limiting Average Speed on Targa Stages

Around 1997 we were becoming seriously concerned about the speed of the cars on the Targa stages. One stage that brought things to a head was ‘Cressy’, which came under Pontus’ control. The average speed of even the slowest cars was quite high, let along the average speed of the front-runners. Pontus was quite concerned about this and in one of our ‘’sessions’’ he convinced me to do something about it.

In turn, I talked at length with Chairman John Large and we finally determined that we had to set a maximum average speed for all the stages. Any stage that was faster had to be examined and altered such that the maximum speed was not exceeded. Now the world motor sport authority, the FIA, had a regulation that gravel rallies could not exceed 110 km/h, but there was a 20% allowance for special events. Pontus promptly suggested Targa Tasmania was a special event, so we settled on 110 plus 20% which resulted in 132 km/h. In later years, as the cars became faster, we adopted the concept of chicanes on the quickest section of a stage.

2000 Millennium Year Event

In the 2000 Millennium Year we added a day to the event, consisting 54 Targa stages of which 27 were under Pontus’ responsibility, as well as the Prologue at George Town. There were 9 stages on Day 1, 10 on Day 2 and 8 on Day 3. So, 50% of the event, which attracted 298 competition cars (there were no touring or regularity cars in those years) traveling at 30 second intervals, were under his direct control.

Many stages were used for the first time and Pontus had the task of advising property owners of the road closures and obtaining and training many hundreds of new officials. That he achieved this was an exceptional effort by him and his faithful team of senior officials. I have checked the records and found not one stage was cancelled or delayed due to operational purposes, and with many new stages added
to that year’s event, it was truly a brilliant effort on the team’s part.

Perhaps only Pontus could have organised a team to carry out this marvelous contribution to the great success of that year’s big event.

Hall of Fame

Up to 2011 only seven of the many thousands of officials who have been involved with Targa Tasmania had been inducted into the Hall of Fame – the founders John Large and Ronda Mathews, myself, Ken Roddam, Marcia and Ron Brown and ………… Pontus. The first four were employees of the Promoter but the last three were volunteers when inducted in 2011, the 20th anniversary of the event.

The induction of Pontus reflected that special extra dedication he gave to the event and the fact of his selection for induction over so many of his peers is a tribute to his enormous and effective contribution to the event.

Potential Operations Manager

One final comment on how highly we regarded Pontus.

It is not generally known that Pontus was very seriously considered as the replacement to the full-time Operations Manager Charles Knight when Charles moved on in the 90s – Pontus had all the qualifications but we considered that his accent may be a major hindrance to him carrying out the role – but on reflection we wondered if we were right.

Farewell

When I went to Hobart for the Targa Tasmania finish and presentation in April (2019), I spent an hour in the Chancellor Hotel coffee lounge chatting with Pontus and then we went to the finish and wandered around for an hour or so continuing our reminiscing of our times together and various aspects of the event. I am now so grateful that we found time to be together like that for those couple of hours as this has now given me a very timely farewell to our association.

So, goodbye my friend – thank you for the opportunity to know you so well and you will always be remembered by me.

Related posts