Australian Rally History

by Tom Snooks

1979 Australian Rally Championship

1979 Australian Rally Champions - Ross Dunkerton / Jeff Beaumont - Datsun Stanza.
1979 Australian Rally Champions - Ross Dunkerton / Jeff Beaumont - Datsun Stanza. This was Dunkerton’s fourth championship – 1975, 1976, 1977 (equal)

1979 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

In the eleven years of the Australian Rally Championship no series had approached the 1978 season for competition and drama. Never before had four drivers commenced the final round with a chance of taking off the championship, and never before had the final result been determined by a tiebreaker. Ultimately the glory went to Greg Carr/Fred Gocentas in a Ford Escort narrowly keeping Ross Dunkerton in his Datsun Stanza from taking his fourth Australian rally title.

At the beginning of the 1979 series it seemed unlikely that the drama of 1978 could be repeated. But with each passing round it became clear that 1979 was to be a virtual repeat of the year before. Once again, going into the final event the same four crews – Greg Carr/Fred Gocentas, Colin Bond/John Dawson-Damer, George Fury/Monty Suffern and Ross Dunkerton/Jeff Beaumont – stood to win the title. But this time the finale played to a different tune. Dunkerton/Beaumont, although only third in the final round, won the title – Dunkerton’s fourth (and thus beating Colin Bond’s run of three championships) and Beaumont’s third (thus equaling George Shepheard’s record).

Bond was as good as ever but had to settle for second in the series, sharing this position with Carr. Fury was equal fourth with Geoff Portman/Ross Runnalls, although had they not run off the road when leading in the Lutwyche Shopping Village Rally they might well have been very strong contenders for the title.

Both Datsun and Ford announced at the start of the year they would each be entering two cars in the series (Stanzas and Escort RS 1800s). General Motors campaigned a Holden Gemini for Wayne Bell/George Shepheard, but after a DNF in the first round gave the game away to concentrate on the Repco Reliability Trial coming up in August of that year. Numerous leading privateers in increasingly sophisticated machinery said they would also be chasing title points.

The only serious competition to the two works team was Geoff Portman/Ross Runnalls, campaigning a big engine Datsun 1600, reportedly with substantial unofficial support from the factory team. The pair performed brilliantly through the year and notched up a win and a second place to finish equal fourth.

Dean Rainsford/Jerry Browne ran in a new Ford Escort RS 1800 in all but the first round, but minor problems and time taken to adjust to the new car limited them to a handful of points and they finished sixth. They were followed by Clive Slater, who had a variety of navigators, in his Toyota Corolla from three contested rounds. Ed Mulligan/Chris Heaney also contested three rounds, the last two in a new Ford Escort RS 1800 but gremlins stopped them from earning championship points.

The five rounds in the championship series were again shared amongst the mainland states and each were a great success. The tough series and the equally tough competition, the five rounds won by five different crews, allowed Ross Dunkerton to finally cast aside those who had said his previous titles had not truly made him the Australian Rally Champion.

1979 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

This document includes the summary, details of each of the five rounds of the 1979 ARC and is 7 pages in length. 

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