Australian Rally History

by Tom Snooks

1978 Australian Rally Championship

1978 Australian Rally Champions – Greg Carr, Fred Gocentas and Ford Escort RS 1800
1978 Australian Rally Champions – Greg Carr, Fred Gocentas and Ford Escort RS 1800

1978 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

After a year of intense competition Greg Carr, driving a Ford Escort RS 1800 and with Fred Gocentas again as navigator, emerged as the Australian Rally Champion driver for 1978. Carr and Dunkerton tied on 27 points but as Carr won three events to Dunkerton’s one he won on a countback.

For the first time since the championship started in 1968 the Australian Rally Championship navigator was not in the same crew as the winning driver. On this occasion, John Dawson-Damer, navigator for third placed Colin Bond, emerged the champion by virtue of gaining points in the first round when he navigated for Dave Morrow when Bond wasn’t available.

The battle throughout the year was essentially a Datsun versus Ford struggle with a number of other teams picking up championship points although unable to break through for an outright win.

Both Ford and Datsun fielded two cars in each event.

Ford had Carr/Gocentas in the RS 1800 and Colin Bond/John Dawson-Damer in a Ford Escort RS 2000. They won four of the six events. Carr was clearly the quickest driver throughout the year and always had his opponents in the position of having to chase him rather than the other way around. He was well positioned in one of the two events he didn’t finish when he suffered a badly damaged hand in an off-the-road excursion, the other being a mechanical problem with the car. Bond in the RS 2000 finished all five rounds he entered, winning one and third on three occasions. He could very well have won the Donlee Rally at Broken Hill but for getting bogged on a wrong road. While not as quick as Carr he clearly showed that he could still take many fastest stage times.

Datsun fielded cars for Ross Dunkerton/Jeff Beaumont and George Fury/Monty Suffern. They started in the 710 and Fury took over the Stanza in the Bega Valley Rally and Dunkerton in the fifth round. In his first year as a full works driver for (now) Nissan Dunkerton won the opening round, with Fury second, and then finished second to Carr on three subsequent occasions. Fury finished fourth in the championship after winning one round and taking a second and a fourth on two other occasions. It was not Fury’s best year but one compensation was winning the Southern Cross International Rally. He looked a good bet at the start of the season to take consecutive championships but teething problems with the new Datsun Stanza later in the year saw him miss the series win.

There were a number of drivers who contested more than one round of the series. Perth’s Clive Slater, teaming up with Steve Halloran from Sydney, ran his Toyota Corolla Sprinter on a shoestring and contested the first five rounds, and included an excellent second outright in the Donlee Rally. They both finished the series in fifth place. Geoff Portman/Ross Runnalls campaigned the Datsun 1600 in four rounds and finished sixth after a second and a fourth. A broken distributor in the final round kept them from gaining further points.

Wayne Bell/George Shepheard contested five rounds in the Holden Dealer Team Gemini but they had five DNF’s.

Garry Harrowfield, a former Victorian champion, ran in only two rounds to take seventh in the series overall in a Datsun 1600, with Roger Bonhomme. Fellow Victorians David Jones/Ian Pearson, again competed in a number of rounds in their Mitsubishi Lancer, while Adelaide driver, Dean Rainsford after a terrible year in 1977 with the Saab 99, reverted to the Porsche Carrera for 1978.

All rounds contained some daylight stages and all were timed to the second, providing tough competition and most were very well run.

1978 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

This document includes the summary, details of each of the six rounds of the 1978 ARC and is 10 pages in length. 

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