THIS IS the world’s longest running and most respected car award, so we aren’t going to entrust it to just anyone.
Only the most accomplished and renowned motoring journalists earn a COTY judging jersey. Even the least seasoned judge on the panel has well over 10 years of industry experience.
As for the most seasoned judge? That would be the legendary Peter Robinson, who this year chalks up 43 COTY starts. So, without further ado, let’s meet the judges.
A passion for cars, and an insatiable curiosity for the stories behind them, has driven Butler during more than 20 years of reporting on the car industry for leading newspapers, websites and magazines. His career began with a cadetship on Wheels in the early 1990s, learning the craft and culture from Wheels’ stalwarts Angus MacKenzie, Peter Robinson, Mike McCarthy, Phil Scott and Bob Hall, along with many other great magazine men. Now Butler is in the editor’s chair and driving the Wheels media brand boldly and aggressively into its digital future. Butler’s a fan of Australian-made cars; equally, he has a soft spot for anything with a well-sorted chassis.
A car nerd par excellence, Ponch has one of the best motoring brains in Australia. Ponch began working for Wheels more than 15 years ago, and along the way has enjoyed a lengthy spell at MOTOR and time as editor of Unique Cars. Renowned for his thoroughness and road testing technique, Ponch is also a stickler for detail, which means no triumph or disaster escapes his attention during COTY testing. Wheels is in his DNA, and his knowledge of cars past and present is matched only by another COTY judge, Byron Mathioudakis.
After 42 years of COTY judging, Robbo has declared this will be his last. As Wheels’ longest serving editor, Robbo has crossed swords on countless occasions with scions of industry, counts CEOs as personal friends, and carried Wheels to still greater heights during a decade of reporting from Europe. On his last visit to Ferrari in 2014, then CEO Luca Di Montezemolo invited Robbo to sit in ‘his’ chair during their final interview, such was the company’s respect for a man it had banned twice. In our eyes, there was no finer automotive journalist in the world, and no truer embodiment of the Wheels passion and spirit.
Carey is one of the motoring world’s most trusted and respected writers, and this year he lines up for his 21st stint at a COTY judge. After starting in newspapers, Carey moved to magazine journalism in the mid-80s before joining Wheels under the editorship of Phil Scott in 1989. A stint at Motor mag and a return to newspapers followed in the mid-90s, before Carey re-joined the Wheels team as Deputy Editor where he remained. In 2009 a move to Italy saw him take up his current role as Wheels’ European editor. As fierce and passionate as he is knowledgeable, Carey is never afraid to call a spade a spade and takes a keen interest in new technology.
COTY is like Christmas for Byron, only better. A Wheels man through and through (he owns every issue and can list from memory every COTY winner, and the runners-up, in order) his passion for COTY is matched only by the ferocity of his love for cars. Now in his fifth year on the judging panel, Byron is incisive, encyclopaedic, and an ace auto-industry journalist. Byron’s love for anything with a motor has led to his owning dozens of cars, from classics to mongrels, because he finds aspects to admire in almost all of them.
Bruce has one of the hardest news noses in Australian motoring journalism, and has spent the past 30 years fine-tuning his technique for grilling company CEOs. Bruce began his journalism career in the early 1980s. His passion for motorsport initially led him to reporting on motorcycle racing, and then to editing Australia’s largest motorsport publication, Auto Action, twice. Bruce’s focus shifted to road cars in the mid-1990s, and he edited several major websites. Now freelance, Bruce’s days are spent prowling Australian racetracks and car company HQs to bring you the inside scoop.
As multi-talented as she is passionate about cars, Sally has forged an armoury of car knowledge over a career that has seen her judge regularly on Wheels COTY and other car awards. She also brings to the judging panel a strong focus on automotive design, having won six design awards and enjoyed stints on the Wheels Automotive Design competition. With a resume that also includes success as an inventor and architect, Sally brings a unique and varied perspective to this year’s panel.