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Legacy of a big man

We have many reasons to thank Geoff Polites...

He was such a big, big man, and it took a disgusting cancer to finally end his drive.  But there is no sign of Polites' decline as I drive his last car, the   wonderful Jaguar XJ.

We have many reasons to thank Polites - from his incredible ability to force the Ford Territory through the blue oval boardroom in Detroit to a renewed commitment to V8 Supercar racing in Australia. The Territory is struggling a bit now, and it has taken new boss Marin Burela to get the race program back on the Polites track, but he did wonderful work in his time in the corner office at Broadmeadows.

When Polites was pulled upstairs in Europe he also did a lot of good stuff for Jaguar Land Rover that is credited to other people. "I'm happy to sit in the background. They need British heroes, not some Aussie know-it-all," Polites once told me in his office in the UK. He figured his job was to find the money, and provide the inspiration, then let the experts get on with the job.

Besides, he still had to keep track of the Australian cricket team - his dog, The Don, was named after Bradman - and finding things to read during interminable chemotherapy sessions. Polites ram-rodded the make-or-break XF Jaguar through the Ford system, even forcing chief designer Ian Callum to go harder on the motor show tease created to get people ready for the radical new Jaguar look.

The production car is good, but Polites knew the show car needed more. And that was the thing about Geoff Polites - he just knew. He knew JLR needed new owners and he was the one behind the deal with India's Ratan Tata. One of the things Polites knew was that Jaguar's flagship XJ had to change radically for the 21st century. He pushed Callum again, and the rest of the team, and this week I can see and feel and enjoy the work he put into the XJ.

In a quiet moment, I ask Callum - a friend since the days when he did bodywork and wheels for Holden Special Vehicles as part of Tom Walkinshaw's team - about the car. He is happy to give credit where it   belongs, with Polites. "Yes, it's Geoff's car. It would not have happened without him," Callum says. "He bullied it through. I think he would have liked it." I know he would.

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