The first lady to win an Australian National Motorsport title, Kate Officer, will follow previous patrons; George Fury, Geoff Portman, Jeff Beaumont and Bruce Garland, in filling a prestigious but some would say somewhat useless role at Mitta this year.
Why have a patron at a rally, you may well ask? The organisers of the Mitta Mountain Rally thought that having an event patron that was a respected elder of the sport would provide a great link between contemporary competitors at the state championship level and older crews and their cars in the Mitta Masters. At a time when women are creating a greater presence in a range of high level sports that have been dominated by men, it is also fitting to acknowledge rallying’s own lady pioneer.
Kate has competed in a couple of Mitta Masters, and been part of the scoring team in two other years. This year, she is not competing, as there has not been enough time apparently to prepare the car after the Alpine.
Kate started rallying in 1976 with Dinta in a Mini Cooper S, an exciting, iconic little rally car, but not so well suited to Australian conditions. The change to a Mitsubishi Colt Galant in 1979 allowed the talent of this crew to gradually shine, taking out the VRC in 1983, the first by a lady and missing out on the ARC by half a point. This was rectified the following year, 1984, when Kate became the
first woman to win an Australian Motorsport title and the first time a husband and wife team won an Australian title. They also found time to cement the relationship by getting married in amongst a busy rally year.
1986 saw a second ARC title for Kate and victory with Dinta in the 7000Km South Australia State Bank Discovery Trial in a Mitsubishi Starion. The pair took on the WRC with a 5th in 1987 and a 4th in 1988 in the NZ round of the WRC, again in the Starion, which has been beautifully restored and run by Brian Shand.
Kate and Dinta were fortunate enough in1985 to compete as part of the Mitsubishi Ralliart team in the first and seven more Wynn’s Safaris, a cross country event that started in Sydney and finished eight days later in Darwin. After a string of solid placings including two second outrights, they broke through for a win in 1992.
In this period Kate managed to have two baby girls, before a turbo 4wd Evo Lancer was acquired in 1993. This made a severe dent in the finances including tackling the 1995 Round Australia, which they lead comfortably until a broken gearbox struck a cruel blow.
A six year hiatus from competition followed until a Historic Rally Car spec Galant was built to tackle the burgeoning Historic events. The Officer’s long distance credentials came to the fore in taking out the 2008 Red Centre to Gold Coast event in the Galant. Since then it has been the Alpine and numerous HRA events.
In 2014 Kate and Dinta were inducted into both the Victorian and Australian Rallying Halls of Fame.
Kate will not be competing at Mitta this year, but will be at the event, free to dispense her well earnt wisdom as required, particularly to young lady co-drivers. She will also be interviewed at the post event presentation function about her career and current rallying before presenting trophies, including the Kate Officer Cup to the winners of the Mitta Masters.