His parents weren't the least little bit tempted.

 

But the sound of racing cars caused much back-seat agitation as the Pottinger family passed Invercargill's Teretonga circuit on a sedate Sunday drive in April 1965.

 

Calling on all the powers of persuasion a young teenager could possibly muster, Bill Pottinger convinced his folks to turn back and have a look.

 

They stayed no more than 15 minutes at that saloon race. Long enough, as he still vividly recalls, to exult in the heroics of a Chrysler Valiant and a cool Mark 3 Zodiac being pursued by three panting Fiat 1500s.

Swept with the drama of it all he was back for the next meeting, this time an international one, having arrived by pushbike with his box brownie camera. History has not retained any record of those shots although history, as the photographer himself concedes, didn't miss much there.

 

But by January 1967, now 14, he was back. And  armed, this time, with his dad's new Asahi Pentax Spotmatic complete with a 135mm telephoto lens that young Bill had himself bought new. What's more, he'd just learned how to develop and black-and-white film.

 

The idea, see, was that he'd sell the prints to the drivers and to newspapers. Not for great profit _ "I wasn't terribly worried about that, but wanted enough to keep a hobby going".

 

Round about here is where it might be reasonable to expect that officialdom, in some form, would have shooed him away from trackside vantage points with the message run along Sonny Jim, you're far too close, you're in the way and you're not fooling anyone.

 

None of that happened. This was evidence of more than the youngster's capacity to be, if sometimes a bit cheeky in his actions, entirely unobtrusive in his demeanour.

 

What did happen, was that by 1968 people were seeing past the boy's evident youth and were paying increasing attention to the photos.

 

"I think they they probably let me hang around because I'd show them my pictures," he says.

 

Veteran NZ motorsport writer Michael Clark put it this way. "By this time, Bill's photography was being taken seriously - he wasn't simply a novelty of being a schoolkid who took some interesting snaps but rather the artist he was becoming."

 

Crucially, one admirer of his work was Eoin S Young, an international motorsport writer,

 

Young would later reflect not only on the quality of young Pottinger's work, but also the extent to which his  "Southland rectitude" and quiet manner behind the lens, increasingly earnedhim personal opportunities.

 

The pictures started to travel all over the place. Young, writing for his far-flung audience, played a big part in that. And oftentimes in their creation.

 

"He had an amazing rapport with the drivers," Pottinger says, still grateful to this day to a man who died in 2014.  "I suppose it was because he was with them overseas so much, he must have had their respect.

 

"He took me under his wing. I'd say something like 'I'd like to get a pic of those two together'. He'd click his fingers - and they'd line up."

 

What line-ups they were.  The likes of Kiwi greats Bruce McLaren. Denny Hulme and Chris Amon, and internationals like Graham Hill Jochen Rindt and Piers Courage. 

"They were gladiators, really. Especially the Formula 1 drivers."

 

Not only in terms of style.

 

"There was a reasonably high attrition rate, before safety standards were improved."

 

Nobody, back then, had the Southland lad more wide-eyed than the two-time world champion, Scotland's Jim Clark.

 

Although as good-looking as any of his more extroverted peers, Clark, like the boy with the camera, was far from a swaggering type.

 

"He was a very quiet and unassuming character but such an exceptional driver. He'd usually lead every race he was in. If the car kept going, he'd win."

 

Pottinger  captured a memorable shot of Clark soldiering on against the odds at Teretonga in 1968 after aquaplaning on a wet track, and wiping the nose off his  Lotus.

 

There's also a pensive portrait, taken afterwards.

 

It was one of the last images Clark left behind.

 

Less than three months later, he died in a fatal crash in Germany.

 

"A very unimportant Formula 2 race," Pottinger recalls, bitterly.

 

His own circumstances improved somewhat from his hobby and he even managed to arrive at Teretonga at something more fitting than a pushbike - an Austin 10 acquired from his grandma.

 

His excited and speedy film-developing sessions back home were sometimes imperilled by his mother, Pam.

 

"Right when I was in the middle of it, my mother would forget I was in the laundry. Even though I'd papered over the windows. She'd open the door to come in to get something and I'd yell out and give her a hell of a fright."

 

Pottinger's photos, now compiled alongside reminiscences in Tasman Series Memoirs 1968-1971, are far from relentlessly focused on the big names of the era.

 

 

There's plenty of nostalgia there for any petrolhead with an eye for the history of the National Formula cars and  Formula A events, club racing and saloon cars.

 

 

Chris Amon writes about his memories of Pottinger as more than an enthusiastic, fresh faced photographer.

 

"I guess 'still shots' in the pits are one thing, but his action shots were truly world class."

 

A case in point: when Derek Bell saw a shot of his Ferrari Dino drifting around the twists and turns of Teretonga, he asked for a copy to take home to show Enzo Ferrari himself what it disclosed about the suspension movement.

 

All of which might have gone to a teenager's head. But Pottinger never lost his sense of awe at the men he was moving among.

The accommodating Eoin Young would gently help him get some of his prints signed by the drivers because he wasn't confident enough to approach them himself.

 

And yet, for their part, when he gave them half a chance "they treated me as an equal," he marvels.

 

"I was never treated as a kid. I suppose it was being an enthusiast. Then age doesn't matter so much.  It's a common interest."

 

It even reached the stage that some of the drivers invited him along when they moved away - in some cases well away - from their area of expertise, to play golf at Invercargill's Queen's Park.

 

"Don't you get a photo of this," Graham Hill instructed as he crouched, in less than dashing style, to retrieve his ball from under a hedge.  

So of course, Pottinger didn't. Throughout that game "I don't think I said a word."

But nobody felt the need to stop him getting a shot of Jochen Rindt treacherously squirting other players with a sprinkler on the green.

 

Pottinger didn't feel the need to get skitey at Southland Boys' High School about what he still saw as his hobby. Everyone was involved in their own sport and studies, in any case.

 

If it would seem only natural that upon leaving school, he take up what had the makings of a stellar career as a photographer.

 

Nope.

 

He was set on engineering studies, and it was time to give his dad, David (Doc) Pottinger - a GP who for half a century delivered an uncountable number of Southland babies - his camera back.

 

Bill Pottinger wound up working most of his life in the meat industry. In recent years he has battled both cancer and a serious consequences of a virus on his lungs leading to septicaemia, parainfluenza  pneumonia and ultimately the amputation of both legs below the knee.

 

But at 64 he is back at work, for Supply Services Ltd in Christchurch, and hopes to be able to resume his longstanding hobby - mountainbiking.

 

Did he ever regard himself as a world-class photographer?

 

"Certainly not. I was just enjoying being close to cars, taking photos, and trying to get every one as close to perfect as I could. I used to love that."

 

The Tasman series was not long-lived, but long to be remembered. Even by young boys who were ready to get on with their lives

When Bill Pottinger left behind his father's beautiful camera, he was "leaving behind a art of my life which I did not realise at the time would be so memorable."