VALE: GRAHAM WATSON
Formula 3 Australia was today shocked and saddened to hear of the untimely loss of Graham Watson, who passed away last (Tuesday) night after a brief battle with Cancer.
Graham was born in Palmertson North, New Zealand before moving to Australia in 1970 and is widely regarded in the Australian and New Zealand motorsport industries for being one of the keenest spotters, developers and supporters of young driving talent.
Watson was, for 30 years, most closely associated with the RALT Australia brand with his team helping many young drivers to many wins in the Australian Drivers Championship.
A former Gold-Star winning driver himself, Graham’s unwavering passion for Open wheel racing will be sorely missed, as will his presence in the pit lane at race meetings around Australia and indeed the world.
Though short on stature and quietly spoken, Graham’s keen intellect, massive knowledge of the sport and continued positivity were apparent from the moment one approached him for a chat. His commitment to the sport he loved and the drivers he supported was unwavering; with regular overseas trips to lend at-track support to former RALT drivers racing around the world.
It was clear that nothing made Graham more proud than witnessing one of ‘his’ drivers succeed at the highest level. The man known as ‘Wattie’ spoke with pride and even emotion after witnessing Scott Dixon - a RALT driver in the 1990s - win last year’s Indianapolis 500-mile race, the most competitive in years.
This year Graham was serving as Team Manager for Tom Tweedie’s debut campaign in the Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship, after introducing the young New South Welshman to the series with a mid-year test in 2008.
Despite having to spend time in hospital during the weekend, Graham stood steadfast at the side of Tweedie as he made a stunning Gold Star debut at the recent Clipsal 500 Adelaide, finishing third in race one. Again, his commitment and dedication were second-to-none.
The loss of Graham Watson is a huge blow the community that surrounds the Gold Star championship, and will be felt around Australian Motorsport in general - such was his influence on so many drivers, teams and people working throughout the industry.
Watson was a strong proponent of Wings and Slicks racing in Australia and served on the management committee’s of both the Formula Holden / F4000 series and Formula 3 Australia. His involvement in the growth and status of this form of motorsport in Australia cannot be ignored.
He will be sorely missed.
All involved in Formula 3 Australia would like to express their deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Graham, and offers them support in this difficult time.
Formula 3 Australia’s administration are currently organising a tribute, to recognise Graham Watson’s involvement in the series - and the sport in general - to be held at Wakefield Park in conjunction with the Shannons Nationals on April 24 - 26.
Graham Watson Bio:
After moving to Australia, Graham worked for Scuderia Veloce Motors, starting a smash repair business for the iconic dealership in 1971. He started his own business in 1974 before selling (in 1986) and taking up a team managers position with Westmark Corporation, based at the former Surfers Paradise International Raceway in Queensland.
A highly accomplished driver, Watson won the 1986 Australian Drivers Championship / Gold Star, Driving a RALT RT4.
Watson would go on to be synonymous with the RALT brand, becoming the Australian agent for RALT cars in 1977, importing more than 30 Formula Atlantic cars to Australia, many of which still race today. The RALT name continued as a racing team in the Australian Drivers Championship, Watson taking drivers like Will Power, Scott Dixon and Daniel Gaunt, to Gold Star success.
Recently the team entered Formula 3 racing, and under the RALT Australia banner prepared a car for Mat Sofi in 2007 and the beginning of ’08.
In 2009 Watson and RALT Australia served as the team manager for Tom Tweedie’s debut in the Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship and was instrumental in introducing Tweedie to the series via a test in mid-2008.
The list of drivers to have driven for Graham, or have gained so much under his tutelage and support is long and illustrious.
These names include: Larry Perkins, John Smith, Roberto Moreno, Nelson Piquet, Alan Jones, Paul Radisich, John Bowe, David Brabham, Craig Lowndes, Mark Webber, Scott Dixon, Will Power, Matthew Halliday, The late Stewart McColl, Daniel Gaunt, Neil McFadyen, Peter Hackett, Mat Sofi and recently Tom Tweedie.