Growing Up Bernie was born into a family for whom motorsport was a way of life. His father John was a well known circuit racer, with many other family members competing in various disciplines. Throughout his youth Bernie spent much of his time on a family farm in country NSW, providing the perfect backdrop for developing an appreciation of cars and open spaces. His first forays into driving were in an old farm truck at the age of 5 and quickly progressed to quad-bikes and go-karts.
Whenever away from the watchful eye of his family Bernie concentrated on driving as fast and sideways as possible without any idea of where this fascination would lead. Competition was never far from Bernie’s upbringing with weeknights and weekends crowded by a mix of Athletics and Australian Rules football. It was the former that captured much of his attention, and he went on to become the Canberra Grammar School Athletics Captain in his final year. A chance encounter with some local rally competitors the following year sowed a seed and set Bernie on a path leading to his first event as a co-driver, the 1997 Carabost Rally. Although a mechanical failure in the 3rd stage ended his event prematurely, Bernie recalls this as a defining moment of his life’s journey.
While the ensuing decade saw Bernie strive to build and refine his motorsport skills, he also pursued a host of other outdoor interests. Weekends that weren’t spent rallying were filled with skiing, rock climbing, kayaking or 4WDing adventures. In the years after his schooling, Bernie spent periods of time residing in the Blue Mountains, the NSW ski-fields and Central Australia. Despite these geographical movements, Bernie regularly travelled long distances to compete in NSW state events and in 2001 he entered the ARC for the first time, co-driving for West-Australian Ben Searcy in a Suzuki Swift GTi. It was here that he was first introduced to the idea of Stage Notes (or pacenotes as they are otherwise known).
A Taste for Tarmac
2002 saw another unexpected turn in Bernie’s rally path, when answering an advertisement in the local car club newsletter led him to Rally Tasmania, and then on to Targa Tasmania that same year. Writing notes for these events began what was to become a passion for developing notes that were clear, succinct and precise. More than a decade on that dedication continues, and through the partnership with long-time driver Steve Glenney it has developed into the Smoothline product we know today.
In an unexpected move, one of Bernie’s friends offered him a drive in a State Championship round in 1993. As with co-driving several years earlier, the first taste of driving lead to an escalation of involvement and before long he was campaigning a Mazda RX2. After a couple of seasons spent sharing his attention between both sides of the car, Bernie decided to focus on co-driving.
The end of the 2004 ARC season saw Bernie’s driver Michael Thompson retire from the sport, coinciding with Steve’s need to find a co-driver to accompany him on a journey into the outright category of the ARC. There is no doubt that this partnership has allowed both Steve and Bernie to realise their potential as competitors. 2005 signaled Steve and Bernie’s emergence on the national stage. The year began poorly with a heavy crash early in the first ARC of the year, but the pair regrouped and went on to win the Australian Privateers’ Cup. The next couple of years were spent campaigning both gravel and tarmac cars, with noteworthy success achieved including outright wins on both surfaces.
In 2006 Bernie resigned from his permanent employment, deciding instead to focus on rallying and in doing so made the tough decision to part with his prized RX2. Since then Bernie and Steve have invested an immense amount of time into refining their Stage Note knowledge and applying their shared “whatever it takes” attitude to all areas of the sport they are so passionate about.
Today Bernie can be found living in Canberra with his wife Jenelle and children Sophie and Lachlan. His work efforts are shared between co-driving for Mazda Australia Motorsport and various other teams, Stage Note writing and coaching other competitors.