AFTER two bad smashes, the future of Bob Jackson, whose name has become a byword in Victorian outboard racing circles, is very much in the balance.
Last October, his tunnel-hull ‘Avenger III’ kited on him in a speed record attempt on Lake Glenmaggie — at close to 100mph. Jackson was picked up, very much shaken, but relatively unhurt.

Then, having only his second outing in his new boat, a l7ft Cesare Scotti tunnel-hull only recently arrived from Italy, the same thing happened in the Victorian unlimited unrestricted championship at Paynesville on February 24.
Jackson had dwelt at the start, and was standing the others up something like eight lengths when they crossed the start line.

So fast did ‘Avenger’ accelerate that he was right up to them by the time they steadied to take the buoy. But, as he hooked the boat around to take the turn, it left the water, kited, and somersaulted twice.

Once again, Jackson was picked up by the crash boat, badly shaken but relatively unhurt, except from internal bruising. But what has the experience of two bad smashes, one on top of the other, done to his nerve?
Would it be wise to get back in the cockpit of a racing boat as soon as possible? Or would it be more prudent to take plenty of time before tempting fate again?

A line could possibly be taken from the case of John Lewis, one of the most promising young stars of the 1970-71racing season, in his inboard runabout ‘Vulture’.
John had a very bad smash in the last event on Griffith Cup day, 1971. Coming back to racing early the following season, he was knocked unconscious in another prang on Albert Park Lake.
John stood out of racing altogether for quite a few months after that, and when he did make a comeback, it was in a new boat — a hydroplane.
It has taken John — who has taken things very quietly, and rebuilt his own confidence, step by step — until well into the current season to reproduce the dynamic driving performances that were characteristic of his first year in the sport.

It could well be that Bob Jackson is now facing a similar long, hard road back.
Cutting their teeth in outboard racing while still in their teens, both Bob and his brother Des quickly showed the relentless competitive spirit of champions.
As one outboarder puts is, “If the Jackson boys turn up at a meeting, they’re not there to race, they’re there to win”.

On the racing circuit, as in business, the brothers show a flair for complementing each other. Their most important win, the 1971 Eppalock Four Hours in ‘Avenger Too’, was a case in point.
Originally it was decided that Bob would drive for the first two hours, then Des would take the wheel. But Des Jackson’s business brain quickly told him that a race of this nature is most likely to be won by careful staff work in the pits.
So Bob’s brother-in-law, Ray Simmons, took the second trick at the wheel, and Des stayed on the bank, master-minding the strategy which won the race.

In outboard racing, the Jackson brothers’ record is formidable; so formidable that, at one stage some years ago, it was argued that Bob Jackson’s dominance in particular, was killing the sport.
Bob, who is now 33, started racing in 1960, at the age of 18.
In those days, the really fast boats, among the outboards, were tiny hydroplanes in the 2Ocu in class.

Bob had a little hydroplane, called ‘Starflyte’, powered with an Anzani motor. Within two years, he had captured both the Victorian and Australian championships.
Then a 2Ocu in German Konig motor came on the market. Bob raced the Konig; Des took the Anzani.
A second Konig became available, and both Jackson brothers, armed with these German motors, were literally unbeatable.
This dominance may have been largely responsible for the slump in outboard racing in the late sixties — a slump during which Bob and Des themselves lost interest, and dropped out of the sport for two years.

Then the era of the tunnel-hull began.

Bob Jackson got back into the same with a Little Nipper type tunnel-hull, powered with a 6Ohp Evinrude, called ‘Avenger’, which he drove with success in the Torrumbarry Hundred.
Then came another development, even more important from the Jackson brothers’ point of view. The Outboard Marine Corporation, manufacturer of their own brand of motor, Evinrude, turned to racing.

For years, OMC, content to produce rugged, reliable Johnson and Evinrudes for the majority family boating market, had as a matter of policy allowed its great rival, Mercury, unchallenged dominance of the racing field.
Now, all of a sudden, the policy was dramatically reversed with the production of OMC’s racing motors, the / Johnson Stinger and Evinrude Strangler.

OMC, which had been trying to discourage its dealers from racing, was urging them to seek out the big Mercs on the racing circuit, and take them out.
The Jackson brothers did not need a second invitation. They imported a Glastron-Carlson tunnel-hull from the United States, and armed it with a Strangler.
It proved one of the greatest outboards ever to race in Australia — ‘Avenger Too’.
As might be expected, Bob and Des Jackson filled complementary roles, Bob driving the boat on the outboard circuit, Des taking the wheel in ski races.

Their long string of successes included the Eppalock Four Hours and the Outboard Cup.
Their next boat, ‘Avenger III’, badly damaged when she kited on Bob in his ill-fated speed record attempt on Lake Glenmaggie, was sold to Chris Twikler, and is now racing very successfully in the 100cu in class as ‘Express Way’.

The new ‘Avenger’ — the Jacksons have now decided to abandon the numerals — is primarily a marathon boat, and was selected with one big mission in mind: To win the inaugural Australian Four Hours, on the Barwon River, on May 5. This is its next engagement.
In the circumstances, it might not be a surprise to see Des Jackson and Ray Simmons sharing the driving, with Bob sitting this one out.

Two things, however, can be taken as certain. As soon as he feels fit and ready to do so, Bob Jackson will be back behind the wheel.
And, when he does, coming second will have no place in his philosophy.

Pale and shaken, BOb Jackson receives assistance after his smash on Lake Glenmaggie. At his left is his wife Lorraine, and his father, Jim.
Pale and shaken, Bob Jackson receives assistance after his smash on Lake Glenmaggie. At his left is his wife Lorraine, and his father, Jim.
Bob Jackson
Bob Jackson
*1974, 'THE JACKSON BROTHERS - Speedman behind the wheel,'
Australian Sea Spray Weekly
, 22 March, p. 5