Bob Jane dies age 88: Family pays tribute to tyre king and racing legend
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Bob Jane dies age 88: Family pays tribute to tyre king and racing legend

Tyre king and racing car legend Robert "Bob" Jane has died aged 88 after a long battle with prostate cancer.

"It is with great sadness that we would like to share the passing of our dad, Bob Jane (Robert Frederick Jane)," said his children Courtney, Charlotte and Robert in a statement on Saturday.

Mr Jane passed away late on Friday night in Melbourne surrounded by his family, Robert Jane junior told Fairfax Media.

Bob Jane has died after a long battle with cancer.

Bob Jane has died after a long battle with cancer.Credit:Rebecca Hallas

"It was our privilege to have had him as our dad, whom we loved and cherished. We will miss him deeply and he will forever be in our hearts," the statement read.

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"Whilst dad was an Australian icon and champion of the community, most importantly to us he was our loving dad."

Glory days … Bob Jane after winning the 1972 Australian Touring Car Championship.

Glory days … Bob Jane after winning the 1972 Australian Touring Car Championship.

Mr Jane was once one of Australia's most famous racing car drivers, winning more than 300 times in his career.

He was a four-time winner of the Armstrong 500 (which later became the Bathurst 1000), a four-time Australian Touring Car champion and in 2000 was inducted into the V8 Supercar Hall of Fame.

Mr Jane was born in 1929 and grew up in the inner-north Melbourne suburb of Brunswick as the eldest of three children.

At age 21, in 1951, he opened his first car dealership with his younger brother Bill.

By 1968, the brothers had nine.

In 1962, he opened the first Bob Jane T-Marts store in Melbourne, which became an Australian household brand and made Jane a multimillionaire.

Mr Jane is credited with bringing stock car racing to Australia.

He spent $54 million building the Thunderdome at Calder Park Raceway north of Melbourne that opened in 1987.

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But the once multimillionaire motorsport icon became mired in public controversy in his later life. After suffering a stroke in 2006, Mr Jane's messy divorce with his third wife Laree played out in the media.

A bitter family feud again engulfed the family in 2013 when Mr Jane took out a $2.9 million lawsuit against his son Rodney over the tyre business. The case was thrown out by the Supreme Court.

Mr Jane descended further into financial ruin, declaring bankruptcy in 2016.

Supercar Champion Mark Skaife described Mr Jane “as game changer in Australian car racing” of his era.

"His genuine love and passion for racing was immense," he said on Saturday.

"He brought professionalism, preparation and an attitude to the game which was quite groundbreaking.

"He’ll be sorely lost from an Australian motor sport perspective, he was a man we all loved and admired."

Mr Jane was the very first winner of the Bathurst 1000 race in 1963. Supercars chief executive Sean Seamer said respects to Mr Jane would be made at Mount Panorama next weekend as this year's race kicks off.

"Bob was one of the greatest race car drivers the Australian Touring Car Championship has seen," Mr Seamer said.

"Few will ever win four Championships and Bathurst crowns, let alone four 1000 titles a row, the first two of those coming when the great race was first held at Phillip Island".

Supercars team owner and AUSCAR champion at Jane’s Calder Park Thunderdome, Brad Jones, also paid tribute to his childhood hero.

Mr Jane had a close connection to the Jones family as godfather to Brad Jones Racing owners Brad and his brother Kim.

"He was an absolute visionary for the sport," Mr Jones said.

"Not only was he a great race car driver but he built an unbelievably successful tyre business and then went on to build Thunderdome, which was years ahead of its time. He's an amazing man and he'll be very sadly missed."

Confederation of Australia Motor Sports President Andrew Papadopoulos lauded Mr Jane's commitment to motorsport.

"Bob was an influential character in motorsport and made a significant contribution across many years," Mr Papadopoulos said.

"On behalf of everyone at CAMS, we pass on our deepest sympathies to the entire Jane family at this sad time."

Advertising man Austin Begg, who pitched for and won the Bob Jane T-Mart account on a cold Melbourne night in 1975 told Fairfax Media in 2013 that Mr Jane was an inspirational and fearless leader who made many of his franchisees millionaires.

"Bob changed tyre retailing in Australia," Mr Begg said. "He was one of the first to really make franchising work. He was a marketing machine in his own right."

There are no confirmed plans for Mr Jane's funeral.

Rachael Dexter is a video journalist and reporter for The Age.

Melissa Cunningham reports breaking news for The Age.