Obituary – Gary Emmett
January 8, 2013 by Paul Grogan
As young motorsport fans, we all had our heroes. Paddy Hopkirk, Colin McRae or Ari Vatenan in rallying, Gilles Villenuve, Ayrton Senna or Jackie Stewart in Formula 1 and Joey Dunlop as King of the Road Racers. As a young rally fan, I followed a team and that was the Subaru World Rally Team. I had all the models, jackets and t-shirts that were available. My favourite drivers during their time in the WRC were Colin McRae and Petter Solberg, both whom became champions for Subaru.
In recent years in Ireland, we have been treated to some of the best WRC machinery in quantities that sometimes outnumbered the WRC itself. In 2007, some of my boyhood dreams were about to start coming through, when I got the opportunity to join Evolution Motorsport working on my then day-time boss Stephen Murphy’s ex-Petter Solberg Subaru Impreza WRC S11, which he had just taken delivery of to use in the 2007 Pirelli Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. Little did I know then that I was about to meet and work with someone who would become a hero and role model to me, his name was Gary Emmett.
Gary (affectionately known to his friends as Gaz) was the boss at Evolution Motorsport and since starting in 1999, had established himself as one of the leading rallycar preparation companies, running cars in Ireland, UK and the Middle-East.
Apart from a few phone calls to sort out some pre-season stuff, my first encounter with Gary was a test on a Midlands mountain road on route to Galway for the Galway International Rally on a cold February Friday morning. I was sporting a pair of genuine ex-Prodrive Subaru World Rally Team mechanics overalls that I had bought on eBay which of course attracted plenty of slagging from both Gary and the actual Prodrive engineer who was with us. That weekend, I was about to see first hand the true meaning of attention to detail, the first of which was cleaning the car after the test just outside Galway. Several jet-wash tokens and cans of WD-40 were used in a filling station forecourt to return the car to showroom condition for scrutiny that evening.
Having watched these cars on TV for many years, I now had my chance to work on one with a proper team. Lead by Gary, twenty minute services were done with military precision. Everyone had their own job from spanner checking each corner, to fuel, oil and water checks and cleaning the car, the latter of which I was lucky enough to do on several occasions. Gary was always more than happy to give me as many opportunities as possible to help and learn a craft that he had so evidently perfected. That year I did four events working on Stephen Murphy’s car, and two further events working on Noel Redmond’s Subaru Impreza S12 WRC on the Dunlop National Rally Championship.
However, one of the main highlights of 2007, was the day Gary called me and asked me would I like to visit Prodrive! Located in Banbury in the English midlands, this was the HQ for the Subaru World Rally Team and to say I was excited about this opportunity would be the understatement of the century! A few weeks later, Gary and I were on a plane over to Birmingham, Gary sharing several stories from his days running rally cars all over the world. A tour of the facilities including the Prodrive museum featuring some of their most iconic cars including a Ford Mondeo BTCC car, BAR Formula 1 car, Rothmans MG Metro 6R4 and of course Colin McRae’s championship winning Group A Subaru Impreza 555 Rally car before finishing up in the actual World Rally Team workshop, where I was lucky enough to see both Subaru Impreza S12B Rally Cars being prepared (under the supervision of David Richards when we were in there) for the upcoming Portuguese round of the World Rally Championship.
In 2008, I was lucky enough to be competing regularly myself, which meant I unfortunately couldn’t re-join the team, but despite this Gary and I remained good friends and he would regularly call for help with vinyl designs for some of the cars he was working on.
During 2012, my girlfriend Jennifer Mullan got the opportunity to race in Formula Sheane supported by goldenpages.ie. Running with Sheane Cars, I volunteered to help with running her car, as David regularly ran up to six cars on events, so a spare pair of hands was always going to be welcome. However it was only then that I started to realize, just how much about the basics of running racecars I had learned during my time with Evolution Motorsport. Spanner checking each corner and cleaning the car with a fine toothcomb after each session were amongst the things I had watched Gary and his team do so well and now I was getting my chance to re-pay his efforts in helping me along by helping the Sheane Cars crew prepare a car so well.
Since I was young kid coming to Mondello listening to Robin Rhodes commentating on the racing and standing on the ditches around the country with Dad watching rally cars fly by, all I wanted to do was work on race and rally cars and run my own team. One day I will get to do that, but sadly Gary won’t be around to see me emulate him. It was a really sad day when I learned of Gary’s sudden and untimely passing. But immediately I was filled with the good memories I got to share with Gary, and most of all everything he did to help me along, not least the trip to Prodrive.
Gary, I know your looking down on us, thank you for everything and every time I work on a race car, I’ll be reminded of how much you taught me.
Just to prove what a respected figure Gary was, here are just a small snap-shot of the comments that circulated online around the time when the news broke:
News of a sudden death shocks, and words can escape you, but the news of Gary Emmett passing is a terrible shock. God help his wife and children in this time of loss. Many words are spoken of the dead but without question Gary was the most genuine decent straightforward man you could meet in motorsport or every day life. You never heard a bad word about him and I honestly never heard him say a cruel word about anyone. To say he will be missed doesn’t even cover it.
Thoughts with his family in their terrible loss.
Very sad news this morning hearing the passing of a very good friend Gary Emmett. Gary gave me my first chance to compete in the middle east championship in 2003 alongside Ahmed Alsabban, I have great memories of all the trips, & can easily say I would not be where I am today without Gary’s help. I did not think my wedding would be the last time I seen this great guy. The world will be a far lesser place without you. Condolences to Cathy, Megan & Rob, & all the Emmett family…RIP Gary