Australian Rally History

by Tom Snooks

1987 Australian Rally Championship

1987 Australian Rally Champions – Greg Carr, Fred Gocentas and Alfa Romeo GTV6
1987 Australian Rally Champions – Greg Carr, Fred Gocentas and Alfa Romeo GTV6.

1987 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Greg Carr/Fred Gocentas took the Alfa Romeo GTV6 to what many considered an unexpected Australian Rally Championship title as the rear wheel drive car was up against the fleet four-wheel drive Mazda 323 and Subaru RX, in a season where rain, almost impassable roads, and more rain played havoc with routes and made four wheel drive the order of the day, making it almost impossible for a two-wheel drive to finish, let alone be well placed.

Despite the extreme adverse conditions Carr/Gocentas was the only team to finish all six rounds and was not worse than fourth – in the first round. They then finished in the top three with two thirds, two seconds and a first. Carr’s team had ironed out the bugs in the delicate Italian car that bothered him throughout the previous season and left him in fifth place in the championship. The navigation title was also the first for the very popular Fred Gocentas.

The 1987 season highlights were not reserved just for them though as Wayne Bell/Dave Boddy shared most of the limelight and came second. Between them they scored three wins, three seconds, three thirds and a fourth (Carr) and fifth (Bell) and only one DNF – that recorded by Bell, who drove two cars throughout the season.

Ed Ordynski/Greg Preece (Subaru RX) and David Eadie/Geoff Jones (Mazda 323) were the only other crews consistently near the top contenders as 1984 Champions David and Kate Officer went through a miserable year, rolling the Starion and generally having a bad time. Ian Hill/Phil Bonser were never far away in their Subaru RX, but likewise were never close enough.

The one uncontrollable factor of rallying – the weather – took its toll during 1987 with two rallies being severely affected by rain, leading to some major route rescheduling, route alterations and on one occasion, the dropping of an entire division. Generally, the inclement weather problems were handled fairly well by the organisers.

For the first time since the introduction of Group A in 1983 rallying was not dominated by one make. Carr’s winning Alfa provided diversity from the Subaru RX and Mazda 323. Other cars included the Honda Integra (Group N) of Adrian Taylor, Audi 80 (Geoff Keys), with Toyota, Daihatsu, Holden and Mitsubishi represented.

Wayne Bell/Dave Boddy swung into action with a win in the Toyota Corolla Levin in the first round, again in Tasmania. The Officers (Mitsubishi Starion) took off second – just a minute behind – with Ed Ordynski/Greg Preece (Subaru RX) third and Greg Carr/Fred Gocentas fourth. West Australia followed and Ross Dunkerton used his home ground advantage to take off a win in a Subaru RX (with Steve McKimmie). Torrential rain terminated the rally before time, almost washed away in the heaviest rain in a decade in the South West. Carr was second, again only a minute separating first and second, and then came Bell with Officer fifth.

David Eadie/Chris Shearer (Mazda 323) won the Bega Valley Rally for the second successive year, with Bell and Carr second and third – just over a minute apart. Ordynski came in fourth and the Officers DNF, rolling their Starion. Carr finally announced his arrival back at the top with a five minute win in Queensland, from Murray Coote/Iain Stewart (Mazda 323) and then Ian Hill/Phil Bonser (Subaru RX). For Bell it was a testing time, suffering from a range of problems that came to a point when he left the road and had difficulty in regaining traction.

In South Australia Bell came good in a new car (Mazda 323 – ex Andrew Murphett), and despite having to acclimatise himself he took off a win, although there was only 15 seconds between him and Ordynski in the end, with Carr a few minutes back in third place. Rain again played havoc and there was a disappointing lack of interest in entering the event by interstate crews.

So to the Alpine Rally to decide the championship, as has been the case over many years. There were only two points separating Carr and Bell and a battle royale was expected. However, Bell had a run off the road, and Carr’s Alfa’s front suspension collapsed and a wheel came off. However they both finished – Carr second to Ian Hill and Bell in fifth.

1987 was the most exciting year for rallying since the late 1970s and with Group A (PRC) now the only category, and with manufacturer interest increasing, as well as the introduction of a new major rally in Perth aiming at World Rally Championship status, the future started to look rosy.

1987 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

This document includes the summary, details of six rounds of the 1987 ARC and is 8 pages in length. 

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