Australian Rally History

by Tom Snooks

1982 Australian Rally Championship

1982 champions, Geoff Portman and Ross Runnalls.
In the absence of works-backed cars a 12 year old Datsun 1600 won the 1982 Championship, crewed by Geoff Portman and Ross Runnalls.

1982 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

It was obvious from the start of the year that 1982 would be a two-horse race between Geoff Portman in a Datsun 1600 and Greg Carr in a Fiat 131 Abarth – and so it proved, with Carr winning one event and second three times (plus a fourth) and Portman winning four events out of the five, with one DNF. They formed the ‘A’ Team of the championship whilst the ‘B’ Team included Doug Thompson and John Atkinson in Datsun Stanzas, Wayne Bell (Holden Commodore), Ed Mulligan (Ford Escort RS 1800) and Tony Masling (Datsun Stanza V8).

With Nissan now out of rallying (Ford the previous year) 1982 was to be the first year of the Australian Rally Championship that was not supported by at least one vehicle manufacturer. Portman was contracted to Nissan for the often promised new Bluebird Turbo but this didn’t eventuate due to the company’s circuit racing commitment with George Fury – and so Portman, with Ross Runnalls, were left to defend their 1981 national title using their own ‘Grunter Mk II’ Datsun 1600. The rules permitted virtual sports sedan rallying and the 12 year old 1600, and its crew, was good enough to take off four event wins and the championship title.

Despite predictions that the Fiat 131 would not be reliable in Australian conditions it proved to have a 100 percent finish rate in Carr’s team hands. It took time for the combination to settle down but by season’s end Carr was equal with, if not ahead, of Portman’s performances.

Of those in the ‘B’ Team, Doug Thompson/Ron Lugg in their Datsun Stanza took third in the championship, a fitting reward for a solid year’s contribution. Tony Masling, navigated by Monty Suffern due to George Fury’s commitments to racing, became a serious contender during the year with his Stanza and finished fourth, while Ed Mulligan, with Geoff Jones, was fifth but they were stymied by reliability problems with their Escort. Wayne Bell had a difficult year with the ageing Commodore, whilst Hugh Bell put in a string of performances that made his previous run of not finishing seem to be in the past.

For others in the top echelon of Australian Rallying, former champions Colin Bond, Ross Dunkerton and George Fury made a cameo appearance at times throughout the series but were really never part of the scene.

Promising of potential things to come were Barry Lowe (Stanza), Gary Burns (ex-works Escort IYK-000), and a pair of Victorians, David Officer and Steve Ashton.

The events included the Dunlop 2GO Rally, based at Gosford, taking over from the long running Bega Valley Rally. South Australia couldn’t mount an event near Adelaide, and attention turned to the Commonwealth Motors Rally based at Broken Hill, which was short, had a poor field of 36 and hardly in keeping with a forest championship concept – but at least it ran, and ran well!

By year’s end it was being realised that Australia was no closer to returning to the mainstream of world rallying, having lost the Castrol International Rally based at Canberra and the Southern Cross International Rally (Port Macquarie). Thoughts were starting to be given to the need for rule changes to attract back manufacturers and longer terms plans were being considered by the National Rally Committee.

1982 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

This document includes the summary, details of each of the five rounds of the 1982 ARC and is 8 pages in length. 

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