Veteran touring car star and motor sport administrator Geoff Leeds passed away this morning in Brisbane after a relatively short battle with cancer. Geoff was active in the sport until his diagnosis earlier this year and for the last four seasons was the Driving Standards and Prosecuting Officer for the TA2 Muscle Car Series.
In a driving career spanning 35 years, Geoff was an active competitor predominately in Touring Cars, racing a Torana XU1 and other class cars during what many would say were the golden years of touring car racing – the Moffat, Brock, Johnson, Jane, Grice, Geoghegan, Goss era. He lined up on the grid at Mt Panorama for 23 consecutive starts in the Great Race at Bathurst in everything from Minis to a Camaro. He was once quoted as saying. “I was desperate to race at Bathurst no matter what, but to get a CAMS licence you had to have a parent’s signature if you were under 21 and I knew Mum wouldn’t do it, so I forged her signature.”
Geoff grew up in Bathurst, living in the historic Tattersalls Hotel (now called the Elephant & Castle) just 3km from the track, so was inevitably exposed to motor racing from a young age. With co drivers such as Japanese Touring Car Champion and Le Mans 24 hour Winner Yoshimi Katayama, Ford Cortina and later Porsche pilot Jim McKeown, (who was a runner up in the Australian Touring Car Championship to the great Norm Beechey in 1970), F5000 Australian Gold Star Champion John Leffler, “King of the Privateers” Terry Finnigan, plus other Australian Championship winners, Geoff achieved a class win, numerous class placings plus a number of top 15 finishes with a best result of 8th outright in the 1991 Bathurst 1000. During a stellar five-year period in the 1970s, Geoff finished first, third and fourth in his class in successive years driving his own Ford Escorts, then fourth with Jim McKeown in a Mazda RX3. For five years he co-drove Finnigan’s Commodore achieving his highest outright result.
He wrapped up his racing career with a stint in Aussie Racing Cars. After hanging up the helmet and gloves, he became the General Manager/Motorsport Manager of Oran Park promoting the Australian Touring Car Championship, the Australian Super Touring Car Championship and Australian Sports Sedan Championship. So respected in the industry, he had a street named after him in the housing development that enveloped what was the original Oran Park circuit, along with Brock, Moffat, Bond and others. In 2002 he was approached by V8 Supercars to become the IPO (Investigating and Prosecuting Officer) for the V8 Dunlop Development Series with Colin Bond as the Driver Standards Advisor – a position Geoff held for 2 years.
He was dealer principal at a number of successful car dealerships in Sydney in his earlier years before moving to Queensland with his wife Sandra in 2007 operating a series of retail outlets. Due to the burgeoning success of the TA2 Muscle Car Series, Geoff was appointed to the Driving Standards and Prosecuting Officer’s role and was highly respected by all. Geoff was perfect for the position. He had the history and track record to cut through the driver spin, ensuring his decisions were fair and transparent, based on knowledge in all levels of competition. While drivers may not have always agreed with his decisions on the day, they all respected it came from someone who had over 35 years of experience fighting for track position against the best drivers in the country during that era.
His son Ben remains active in the motor sport industry, engineering Jett Johnson to the TA2 Muscle Car Series win last year for Team Johnson, and now works for PBR Distributions, delivering and servicing the PBR Spec TA2 race cars from the PBR factory at Hillcrest.
Peter Robinson – TA2 Series Owner:
“Gentleman Geoff Leeds will be truly missed by everyone whose life he connected with, especially the TA2 family who he loved so much, Race Hard and Race Fair were the last words he’d say to all at the track briefings, I will never forget those words. RIP Geoff and condolences to Sandra and the family.”
Allan Grice – Bathurst Legend:
“Geoff was very active in touring cars and raced for my Craven Mild Team a number of times in the late 70’s. He raced with Yoshimi Katayama in a Mazda RX3 at Bathurst in 1977, Katayama was regarded as a demi-god in Japan and they were doing well until Yoshimi turned the Mazda into sushi spectacularly at the end of Conrod Straight. Geoff was very well respected by all in the sport, he just got on with the business of racing with no fuss. He never gave me any grief on track, and I returned the favour! Guys like Geoff are sadly missed from the sport. My condolences to his family.”