History of Australian Rally Championship

1968 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Australian rallying for 1968 constituted the hardest year of this branch of the sport any of the regular contestants had faced. Competition came from some twenty crews in superb vehicles – and those crews had some outstanding events in which to compete under the auspices of CAMS.

Firstly, there was the inaugural Australian Rally Championship (ARC); secondly the Southern Cross International Rally; thirdly, the London to Sydney Marathon, which clashed with the last round of the Championship.

The ARC was a series of six rallies conducted in four states, of which the best five scores counted for the final pointscore. First placed gained 9 points with the following five places earning 6, 4, 3, 2, 1, as was the common scoring system in circuit racing. This system was used until into the 1980s.

Timing was to the minute, with each minute later than the time allowed by the organisers for each stage (then called a section) penalised at the rate of one point per minute or part thereof. If a crew were quicker than the time allowed they ‘clean-sheeted’ the stage and received neither a penalty nor any credit! Over the years timing to the quarter minute came into vogue (sometimes penalised at one minute per quarter minute or part thereof .and other times at quarter minute per quarter minute). Gradually, timing to the second with a penalty of one second per second over the time allowed was adopted and then times allowed were dropped altogether on special stages and the penalty was the time taken. But that was far into the future.

Daylight running was exceptional and in fact if competition was running behind schedule and competitors had to compete in daylight the stages were cancelled. Gradually, some daylight stages were permitted, particularly under the guise for spectators and then daylight stages became the norm, necessitating the course to be ‘sealed’ so that the public did not travel on it. Again, this was well into the future in 1968.

Australia’s population was 11,500,000 in 1968 so there were many open areas where rallying could be conducted and there was little movement by the population at night, although this was quickly changing with the rapid increase of the motor vehicle population.

Most events were conducted on public roads and in 1968 there were very few permissions to be obtained and organisers could run events wherever they chose, although this was rapidly changing and indeed, in New South Wales there was virtually no rallying in 1969 whilst an agreement on the use of shire roads was being worked out between CAMS and the NSW Shires Association. This forced a swing into the use of forest roads.

The National Rally Code came into being in 1967 and formed the basis for the ARC competition.

Barry Ferguson sat out the Championship to concentrate on the New South Wales title, so only ran in the two New South Wales based events (Snowy Rally and Canberra 500 Rally). Harry Firth, John Keran and Max Winkless, who featured in the four ARC events didn’t do the last round due to being absent on the London to Sydney Marathon.

Vehicle Eligibility
Vehicle eligibility was based on CAMS Group C – Australian Touring Cars

Championship Point-scoring
1st = 9, 2nd = 6, 3rd = 4, 4th = 3, 5th = 2, 6th = 1

Click Here to Download Full 1968 Version

The 1968 Championship winning Ford Cortina Lotus with Harry Firth and Graham Hoinville

 

1969 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

After the success of the inaugural Australian Rally Championship in 1968, which brought together at differing times the best of competitors from most of the states (Western Australia and Tasmania excluded), there was a yearning for a continuation of the championship.

New South Wales had a clouded rally situation, with CAMS representatives working in the background to find answers to Police requirements that permissions to use roads be obtained from each Shire Council along the route of every rally. This situation was brought about by complaints from country-dwellers about the speeds and so-called reckless driving of those involved in rallies and could lead to areas being banned to rallying.

There was also talk about General Motors disbanding its highly successful rally team, and this ended up with the development of the very successful Holden Dealer Team under Harry Firth.

But there was good news as regards the availability of new cars for rallying, including the Southern Cross Rally.

Following the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon BMC had three slightly-used Austin 1800s completely equipped and ready for rallying, as well as a Cooper S or two; Ford had 1968 ARC winning Cortinas available, plus three as new Flacon GTs and General Motors had a few of its products in the hands of ‘private’ owners doing well in state events.

Volvo was out of luck in the Marathon with minor problems but still had event potential winning cars and the Japanese cars, through Mitsubishi and Daihatsu pushing for outright placings in state events, and the Southern Cross Rally. Renault was being recognised as having the fastest cars on the rally roads, particularly the 1255cc Gordini versions and Renault enthusiasts were looking to Renault Australia making a decision to seriously participate in Australian rallying.

Enthusiasm was starting to build up for the 1970 Ampol Bi-centenary Round Australia Trial, with many state competitors seriously thinking of participating and starting to develop new cars.

So, at the start of 1968 there was a more optimistic than pessimistic outlook to the coming year or so for rallying.

Vehicle Eligibility
Vehicle eligibility was based on CAMS Group C – Australian Touring Cars

Championship Point-scoring
1st = 9, 2nd = 6, 3rd = 4, 4th = 3, 5th = 2, 6th = 1

Click Here to Download Full 1969 Version

1969 Australian Rally Champions – Frank Kilfoyle/Doug Rutherford in the Ford Cortina Lotus

 

1970 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

During 1969 CAMS did a massive amount of work at the administrative level with the Police and Shire Councils to make sure that events will be held, although there was a massive reduction in the number of events to be conducted, but the new procedures would ensure that future events were going to be worth conducting. A vast majority of the Shires agreed to the CAMS Joint Agreement proposal, with a lot of thought going into it to which areas can be used (and not used) for rallying and how often. A few events were schedule for 1970 but it seemed that it would be 1971 before there would be a plentiful number of events to choose from.

The long-established Snowy Rally, as a round of the Australian Rally Championship, would be conducted.

After two successive Australian Rally Championship wins Ford Australia withdrew from competition as from 1970 leaving the way clear for Harry Firth’s team of Toranas driven by Colin Bond, Barry Ferguson and Tony Roberts to dominate the Australian rally scene, although with Renault coming into the sport there was potentially a shakeup coming. New South Wales Bruce Collier took in the task of preparing three cars for the Renault Team, with the quick 1296cc Renault Gordinis for Bob Watson, Mal McPherson and Collier himself. However, in the Ampol Trial mid-year they would be driving Renault 16TS cars.

With its success in the previous year’s Southern Cross Rally, with Andrew Cowan winning that event in an Austin 1800, Leyland Australia was looking to continue an involvement in the sport, Japanese cars did quite well in the smaller class categories in 1969 and with drivers like Doug Stewart, Doug Chivas and Barry Lloyd the Mitsubishi Team could start to look formidable from 1970.

As 1970 unfolded a number of Mazda dealers were seriously looking at entering a three car team in the Ampol Trial and considering using the early National Events to sort out their cars for the big event.

Vehicle Eligibility
Vehicle eligibility was based on CAMS Group C – Australian Touring Cars

Championship Point-scoring
1st = 9, 2nd = 6, 3rd = 4, 4th = 3, 5th = 2, 6th = 1

Click Here to Download Full 1970 Version

1970 ARC Champions – Bob Watson and Jim McAuliffe – Renault 8 Gordini 1296cc

 

1971 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

At the beginning of 1970 there seemed to be an excitement in the world of Australian rallying as cars and crews were preparing for action in Australia’s bi-centenary year. The year ended with an exciting national rally series to remember, although the events were dominated by Bob Watson and Jim McAuliffe in the Renault Gordini R8. And there was the big Ampol Captain Cook B-Centennial Trial mid-year, with its 200-plus car field, to look forward to.

1971, however, seemed to lack direction and enthusiasm. The big supporters (car manufacturers and dealers) were not showing any anxiety to field crews and teams and probably this was because of the disappointment in the highly touted ‘Ampol Trial’ which turned out to be a long tour with barely one tenth of fair to good competition. This meant that a lot of rally budget money was spent and to some extent wasted. And provision had to be made for the mooted London to Sydney Marathon being planned for 1972 (which never happened). On the other hand, there was the planned Dulux Rally at the end of the year, although this was to be a run from Sydney to Brisbane to Melbourne over eleven days – a bit long and expensive for the average competitor.

But as the year unfolded the rounds of the Australian Rally Championship provided excitement to competitors, officials and spectators alike. The six round format of two events in New South Wales and Victoria, plus one each in Queensland and South Australia, continued and provided serious competitors with a full series of competition.

One question on everyone’s lips was around the ability of the Renault Team to continue its remarkable success of 1970, when Bob Watson/Jim McAuliffe won four rounds and the others in the Team finished well in the top six placings of most of the five events. Or could the newly formed Holden Dealer Team counter the Renault Team with its Holden XU-1. Renault would run the same team in three new Gordinis.

Waiting in the wings to break into Australian rallying in a prominent way were the Japanese manufacturers, particularly Datsun and Mitsubishi.

Vehicle Eligibility
Vehicle eligibility was based on CAMS Group C – Australian Touring Cars

Championship Point-scoring
1st = 9, 2nd = 6, 3rd = 4, 4th = 3, 5th = 2, 6th = 1

Click Here to Download Full 1971 Version

1971 Series Winners – Colin Bond/George Shepheard in the Holden Torana XU-1 in the 1970 Southern Cross Rally

 

1972 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

The cars of the Holden Dealer Team, led by the legendary Harry Firth, were simply too fast, too reliable, too well driven and navigated, and too well organised to give any other of the competitors a chance. The Team won five of the six championship events and was second in three.

The hoped-for-challenge from the Mitsubishi Galants which ran so strongly in the Southern Cross Rally in 1971 and would be further developed for that event in 1972 did not eventuate. The marque had been taken over by Chrysler who distributed them in Australia but did not actively participate in any form of motor sport and the team of Galants were little more than private entries and were backed by minor financial and technical assistance. They were beset by numerous minor mechanical difficulties. At times they looked to be able to give the Holdens a run but, just as often, they fell by the wayside.

After a late challenge to the Toranas at the 1971 Southern Cross Rally, the works Mitsubishi Galants were expected to do well in the 1972 Australian Rally Championship and pose a major threat to Harry Firth’s HDT domination of the series. However it was not to be, as the cars were poorly backed up and suffered from various incidents which cost them the chance of any outright wins. The HDT LJ Torana XU-1’s won five of the six rounds. Mitsubishi’s best finishes were a second place in the Alpine (for Doug Stewart and Dave Johnson) and third in the Warana (Doug Stewart and Dave Johnson) and Snowy Mountains rallies (Doug Chivas and Peter Meyer).

Another major challenge was expected from Renault. Their Renault R8 Gordinis had dominated the 1970 season and the new R12 Gordinis were faster and the team was hoping this would ensure some success for 1972. Tom Barr-Smith was second in the Walkerville 500, and Bob Watson managed a third in the Akademos, but other than that it was a disappointing season.

The Datsun 1600 was proving itself a very fast rally car and was strongly represented in 1972, with high placings potentially going to sponsored privateers such as Peter Lang/Ed O’Cleary, and Graeme Elliott/Fred Gocentas.

The Holden Dealer Team’s Colin Bond and George Shepheard dominated the championship, winning three rounds together and a fourth for Shepheard when he navigated for Frank Kilfoyle in the final round, the Alpine Rally.

Vehicle Eligibility
Vehicle eligibility was based on CAMS Group C – Australian Touring Cars

Championship Point-scoring
1st = 9, 2nd = 6, 3rd = 4, 4th = 3, 5th = 2, 6th = 1

Click Here to Download Full 1972 Version

1972 Australian Rally Champions – Colin Bond/George Shepheard in the Holden Torana XU1

 

1973 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

From Canberra, Peter Lang, star recruit for the Holden Dealer Team (HDT) in 1973, took out the Australian Rally Championship (ARC) in a Holden Torana XU-1. His navigator was Warwick Smith, from Victoria. They participated consistently and were rewarded with three wins, a second and a fourth.

1973 went down as the year of the Torana with all six rounds won by the XU-1 and no other make offered a serious challenge to its power, handling and reliability. This came as no surprise to many people who had predicted a one-sided contest once the vehicle technical regulations were issued – restricted eligibility to what was virtually standard vehicles with no engine modifications or strengthening of body or suspensions. Nor did it allow for cars with specially homologated rally components, such as the Mitsubishi Galant/Lancer or the Datsun 180B which were being prepared for the Southern Cross Rally. The regulations were strongly criticised as they acted against the privateer competitor unable to afford constant replacement of damaged parts. Thus, the result was a one-horse race.

All events permitted any car to be entered but only those cars conforming to the ARC technical regulations were eligible for championship points.

Despite the lack of formidable competition from the other makes the 1973 events lacked little by the way of interest, with no fewer than three crews holding the lead at different times. Defending champions Colin Bond/George Shepheard were out for a hat-trick of championships won two rounds but had to be content with second overall. South Australian champions Stewart McLeod/Adrian Mortimer took an early lead when they won the first round but despite further good placings throughout the year they finished third overall.

There were few other serious contenders for the championship. Ed Mulligan/Mike Batten drove well in their Mazda RX2 to finish fourth; Tony Roberts/Jeff Beaumont started the year well in their Peugeot 504 but when Renault withdrew from motor sport they were left without a ride. They appeared twice more in Saab 99 and gained fifth position in the series.

Bruce Hodgson/Fred Gocentas had an unhappy year in their big Falcon GT 351, being plagued with punctures and numerous small problems which kept them from major placings. A number of other crews competed in various rounds but none except Frank Kilfoyle/Mike Osborne ever looked like topping the HDT. They were poised to take out fourth in the championship until their works Datsun 240Z broke its differential almost in sight of the finish of the Bega Valley Rally.

Vehicle Eligibility
Vehicle eligibility was based on CAMS Group C – Australian Touring Cars

Championship Point-scoring
1st = 9, 2nd = 6, 3rd = 4, 4th = 3, 5th = 2, 6th = 1

Click Here to Download Full 1973 Version

1973 Australian Rally Champions – Peter Lang (ACT)/Warwick Smith (Vic) in the Holden Torana GTR XU-1

 

1974 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

The 1974 Australian Rally Championship saw seven events run, including for the first time an event in Western Australia. For the first time ALL events were navigationally straight forward with none of the ‘crystal ball’ exercises which had ruined some events in the past. The series looked like a national series, with crews from five states (and the ACT) competing on a generally regular basis and this spread was reflected in the final points score table, with all the states and the ACT represented in the first seven placings.

The year of 1974 was remembered as the wettest ever in the short history the Australian Rally Championship with events hit hard. The Bunbury Curran had to be postponed, the Akademos was considerably cut back in length, and a similar problem hit the Bega Valley Rally.

It was obvious from early in the year the championship would be a battle between Holden and Datsun, with Stewart McLeod/Adrian Mortimer (Datsun 260Z) versus the Holden Dealer Torana XU-1s of Colin Bond/George Shepheard and Peter Lang/Fred Gocentas. And that is how it turned out after a year of hard-fought rallying.

The title went to Bond/Shepheard, gained from four wins and a second placing, with McLeod/Mortimer winning two and being second three times. The West Australian crew of Ross Dunkerton/John Large (Datsun 240Z), who put in some exceptional performances, were third, whilst fourth place went to Peter Lang (axcompanied by George Shepheard and Fred Gocentas during the season). After winning the inaugural WA round their XU-1 was plagued by problems and did not contest the last two rounds. Victorians Bill Evans and Mike Mitchell plugged away during the year in the little Datsun 120Y and were rewarded with fifth place after finishing a third, two fourths and two fifths. Dean Rainsford/Graham West (Porsche 911S) had an interesting year, leaving the road a number of times and going quickly elsewhere. They finished sixth. Queensland was represented in seventh place by Adrian Taylor/John Souminen in their Honda Civic, finishing third on two occasions.

The Championship was the fourth in succession for the Holden Dealer Team XU-1, and the third in four years for Bond/Shepheard.

Vehicle eligibility was based on CAMS Group C – Australian Touring Cars

Championship Point-scoring
1st = 9, 2nd = 6, 3rd = 4, 4th = 3, 5th = 2, 6th = 1

Click Here to Download Full 1974 Version

1974 Australian Rally Champions – Colin Bond, George Shepheard and the Holden Torana XU-1

 

1975 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

If ever proof was needed that competition improves the breed, then the CAMS Australian Rally Champions for 1975, Ross Dunkerton and John large, both from Western Australia, were living proof.

Two years previously, despite being West Australian Champions, they were largely unknown on the East Coast and, while obviously competent, they did not stack up against the top Australian combinations. At the end of 1973 the pair ran in the Southern Cross Rally and came home 11th outright without over-impressing. During 1974 they contested most of the Australian championship rounds and as a result improved rapidly and a number of good placings saw them take third place in the series. Finally, in 1975 they put it all together and took their Datsun 260Z to a resounding and well-deserved title win. On the way they won two of the seven rounds and shared victory in a third.

Second overall place-getters were South Australian champions Stewart McLeod and Adrian Mortimer in their Datsun 260Z. This crew were national runner-ups for the third time and seemed destined never to quite get to the number one spot.

The championship was a worthwhile series run over seven events in five states and at one time or another attracted most of the country’s top rally crews.

Among the more competitive of the regular crews was Ed Mulligan (Holden Torana L34) who ran in six rounds and took three minor placings but found the L34 not quite reliable enough. Doug Stewart ran in four rounds in the Mitsubishi Lancer with mixed success. 1974 Champions Colin Bond and George Shepheard did not debut the new L34 until the third round and dropped out of the series after the car had gearbox problems in the Queensland round and this put them out of contention for another title. Dean Rainsford and Graham West had a mixed year, winning the South Australian round but otherwise only picking up one point in their Porsche.

Ford Motor Company imported a works Ford Escort Mk 1 BDA for Bob Watson/Jeff Beaumont. Dust entered the engine during the car’s first ARC event (the Akademos) necessitating an engine rebuild after which the car was well down on power and not as competitive as expected.

Very successful appearances were put in by various Datsun variants. George Fury won the opening round in the works 710 but then only competed in two further rounds, including the Bega Valley Rally where he retired with suspension failure when heading the field comfortably on the second night. Fury’s bad luck was Dave Morrow’s good luck as he inherited the lead in his much-modified Datsun 180B SSS with its 2.4 litre motor but was not eligible for championship points. Greg Carr, also not eligible, had a comfortable win in the Alpine Rally in his Datsun 180B SSS.

As in 1974 all rounds were competitive and well organised. Promotors of the series made strenuous efforts to raise prize money and gain increased spectator involvement and media interest.

Vehicle Eligibility
Vehicle eligibility was based on CAMS Group C – Australian Touring Cars

Championship Point-scoring
1st = 9, 2nd = 6, 3rd = 4, 4th = 3, 5th = 2, 6th = 1

Click Here to Download Full 1975 Version

1975 Australian Rally Champions – Ross Dunkerton/John Large/Datsun 240Z
Image from Racing Car News December 1975

 

1976 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

1976 was a mixed year for Australian Rallying. The year provided both good and not so good news. The two major international rallies on the calendar, the Southern Cross Rally and the Castrol Rally provided plenty of action with both events attracting top fields as regards numbers and quality of crews, first class organisation and much improved publicity.

On the other hand, however, the Australian Rally Championship series had not developed into a truly national competition it was designed for. Over the years, rising costs, the occasional poor-run event and what many considered as ridiculous vehicle eligibility regulations all combined to prevent the ARC from becoming a top series. In 1976 certainly the weather played a part with the projected first round, the Mazda House Rally, being twice postponed and then finally cancelled because of heavy rain. Organisational difficulties caused problems, with the West Australian round so poorly organised that competing crews went on ‘strike’ at one stage rather than continue. The South Australian round had no pre-event publicity and was rewarded with the smallest field in a major event for many years. The Bega Valley Rally wasted the entire first of its two nights by using uncompetitive roads.

Vehicle regulations did not help either. Victorian George Fury, driving a Datsun 710, won three of the four rounds he contested but the vehicle was not eligible for championship points. This happened despite the fact that it was an homologated car eligible to run in the Southern Cross Rally and any other major international event. It was being run the ARC to sort it out for the Southern Cross Rally.

Ross Dunkerton/Jeff Beaumont (Datsun 240Z) won the series, well clear of the second placed Dean Rainsford/Graham West (Porsche Carrera RS), and it was Dunkerton’s successive driver’s championship and he was the only driver to contest all six rounds. Rainsford attended five events, as did third placed David Jones/Brian Marsden (Mitsubishi Galant), while Danny Bignell (Datsun 240Z) ran in three and finished fourth, as did Ed Mulligan/Fred Gocentas (Holden Torana L34) but they failed to feature in the top six. The Greg Carr/Wayne Gregson (Datsun 180B SSS) car was subsequently found to be ineligible during the Bega Valley Rally and it dropped out of the series.

Many people considered the series a washout but there was light on the horizon however, as the CAMS National Rally Committee was considering changing the vehicle requirements for 1977, thus enabling many more leading crews to contest the series. Many in the sport agreed that it was about time that CAMS did something about the vehicle eligibility for the championship.

Vehicle Eligibility
Vehicle eligibility was based on CAMS Group C – Australian Touring Cars

Championship Point-scoring
1st = 9, 2nd = 6, 3rd = 4, 4th = 3, 5th = 2, 6th = 1

Click Here to Download Full 1976 Version

1976 Australian Rally Champions – Ross Dunkerton, Jeff Beaumont and Datsun 240Z

 

1977 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

After a number of years of the Australian Rally Championship languishing in the doldrums as a second-rate series things really came to life in 1977.

Colin Bond, long time Holden Dealer Team Driver, winning three Australian Rally Championships in four years, resigned from the team and joined Ford to race with Allan Moffat in a determined bid to win touring car supremacy. Bond’s decision to go with Ford had other benefits. His rally expertise was immediately snapped up and, with Canberra’s Greg Carr, the Ford Escorts burst onto the national rally scene with sensational wins in three of the country’s major rallies. This almost became four wins when Carr, in the remarkable Escort RS 1800, was ‘’robbed’’ of a certain win in the Southern Cross Rally when the car developed alternator problems late in the event and he was relegated to fifth place.

1977 saw five different winners in five rounds and the championship title was shared by two Datsun crews – George Fury/Monty Suffern and Ross Dunkerton/Jeff Beaumont – the former in a Datsun 710 and the latter in a Datsun 260Z for three rounds and a 710 for the remaining two rounds. The year produced first-class competition and a string of exciting events, and any one of the five who won a round could have won the series in the last event and it was hardly all that surprising that the championship ended in a tie.

The dramatic change in the status of the series came about as a result of changes to the regulations on vehicle eligibility. In past years highly restrictive regulations not only discouraged many leading private entrants but also some of the works cars entrants, although they competed with FIA requirements. For 1977 there were fewer eligibility requirements and as a result interest in the series ran higher than ever, with some 20 crews scoring championship points, and many others ran in more than one championship event.

All five events in the series were well run, and tough events, and a true test of cars and crews.

Click Here to Download Full 1977 Version

Dual 1977 Australian Rally Champions:
(top) George Fury/Monty Suffern (Datsun 710 SSS)
(bottom) Ross Dunkerton/Jeff Beaumont (Datsun 260Z) – also drove two events in a Datsun 710 SSS

 

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.

Click Here to Download Full 1978 Version

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

 

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.

Click Here to Download Full 1979 Version

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

 

1980 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Continuing their almost complete domination of major Australian rallies in the second half of the seventies the Total Oil Datsun Team convincingly won the 1980 Australian Rally Championship with George Fury, Monty Suffern and Datsun Stanza. It was the second championship for Fury and Suffern but more satisfying as they shared the title with teammates Ross Dunkerton and Jeff Beaumont in 1977. The team won all five championship events – three to Fury, one each to Dunkerton and Geoff Portman/Ross Runnalls (Stanza).

The title was the fifth in six years by Datsun (soon to be Nissan) and in that time it also won the Southern Cross International Rally in successive years, 1977 to 1980.

The 1980 series followed the by now familiar format with one round in each of the mainland states. The opening round was in Queensland, followed by West Australia, then New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia (at Broken Hill).

As had been the case since 1977 the chief protagonists for the 1980 series were the Datsun (now Nissan) and Ford works teams. The other factory backed team, Holden, never really sought to contest the series as a whole, and there was no one privateer who competed in all five rounds.

Datsun made its usual professional attack on the series, with two litre twin cam Stanzas for George Fury/Monty Suffern and Ross Dunkerton/Jeff Beaumont. A third twin cam car was made available for Geoff Portman/Ross Runnalls to run in the last two rounds under separate sponsorship. Between them the Datsun drivers won all five rounds.

By way of contrast the Ford team attack on the championship never really got running smoothly throughout the series. This was not a reflection on the team members but rather a result of the somewhat half-hearted support from Ford Australia, which was curtailing the sales of the Escort after 1980. The RS 1800 was used by Greg Carr/Fred Gocentas and Colin Bond/John Dawson-Damer. Carr had a disappointing year, with some form of mechanical problem in every round, usually when he was in the lead or close to it, and he only finished two events. On the other hand Bond was a model of consistency, finishing second in four events and fourth in the other event. Just how reliable Bond was can be seen by the fact that in four years with the Ford team he started in 16 championship events and finished every one of them – never worse that fifth.

The Holden team with its two Geminis did not make a concerted attack on the series and only contested three of the five rounds.

Amongst the privateers the ever present Clive Slater, with Barbara Stubbs, in his Toyota Corolla was the only competitor to tackle the whole series, contesting four rounds (from West Australia) but finished in only one (third in the first round). Tony Masling/Brian Hope ran their Datsun Stanza in three rounds, but mechanical problems kept the car out of points except for the opening round when he finished fourth. A number of other drivers attended two rounds.

By the end of 1980 thought was being given to the fact that with only five rounds in the championship the results of all round must be taken into account for the final score and a poor result cannot be dropped, and there be the need to start in all rounds. This requirement, taken with the traditional points score system of 9, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 for the top six placegetters effectively ruled out any worthwhile participation in the championship by privateers, although many did compete in their ‘home state’ round (which is often a round of the state championship). Added to this was the steeply spiraling cost of rallying in events strung out across the nation and participating in the series was a deterrent to all but the wealthiest privateer.

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1980 Australian Rally Champions – George Fury, Monty Suffern and Datsun Stanz

 

1981 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

The first thing to note about the 1981 championship series was the change of allocation of points – from the long standing 9, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 system for the first six place-getters to 20, 15, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Under this system 36 crews scored points but the domination of the three Datsuns reaped 45 of those points, leaving 25 points covered by the other 33 place-getters.

The second issue of note was the absence of both Ford and Holden, leaving Datsun as the only factory backed team in the series. Their withdrawal left a vast gap at the top of the sport, with no opposition for the efficient and smooth-running Datsun (now Nissan) team. The championship desperately missed two of the stalwarts of previous years, Colin Bond and Greg Carr. Neither started in any round.

Datsun extended their unbeaten run in the championship to six titles in seven years. However, Datsun was re-appraising its involvement at the end of the year which was to see the team disbanded. The Stanza career as a factory rally car was over and Datsun turned increasingly to circuit racing (with George Fury) to promote its competition image.

In line with downscaling its involvement the Stanzas were fitted with less powerful single cam engines rather than the twin cam four valve units used the previous year against Ford. This had several benefits, including reducing costs for tyres and other running gear and allowed privateers to compete, or at least think they were, on relatively equal terms.

At the start of the year Datsun’s team manager, Howard Marsden, decided that Geoff Portman/Ross Runnalls were to become the Australian champions if they performed well enough. They did, winning four of the five events to score the most convincing championship win in years. The only other crew to win a round was Ross Dunkerton/Jeff Beaumont (Stanza), although George Fury/Monty Suffern were actually second in the championship, being placed second twice and third once.

The series consisted of five events, similar to 1980. However, the general standard of events slipped considerably in 1981, with only the Alpine Rally resisting the trend. The competition also slipped, particularly in comparison with the bumper years 1979 and 1980. Datsun had only one car in the West Australian round (for Dunkerton) and there was no entry for Dunkerton in the Akademos round. Portman was entered for each of the eastern states rounds, and won them. Fury ran in three events but he was being groomed as a race driver and this seemed to be the more likely path for his future involvement in Datsun’s competition plans.

Only one team entered all five events in the series – Doug Thompson/Ron Lugg in their Datsun Stanza. They were dogged with bad luck and mechanical failures ad only showed their true form with a third in the Alpine Rally. They finished sixth in the series.

Fourth place in the series went to Wayne Bell/Col Parry in Parry’s ex-Repco Trial Holden Commodore, which was entered in the last three rounds and finished with 24 points. Victorian Champions Chris/Simon Brown were fifth in the Datsun 180B SSS.

The championship was likely to be different in 1982 with the introduction of Group A to Australian motor sport – both racing and rallying. Group A would see more standard vehicles and this would be the only way of attracting factory support back to the sport, although some competitors saw this as a threat to their involvement with their highly modified vehicles. The various interests need to be balanced out to allow the much needed factory support but rallying was heading for a long drought without factory support and associated promotion and one in which highly modified (‘’Group G’’) cars would dominate and competitors would resist the introduction of Group A, an FIA category – which was altered to Production Rally Cars (PRC) to take into account Australian eligibility and modification conditions.

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1981 Australian Rally Champions – Geoff Portman, Ross Runnalls and Datsun Stanza

 

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.

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

 

1983 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

About the kindest thing that can be said of the 1983 Australian Rally Championship is that it was not as bad as was expected! The truncated four-round series began slowly but the final two events were entertaining and competitive. With the previous year’s stars, Greg Carr and Geoff Portman, out of the way it was left to the even-matched ‘’secondstringers’’ to turn on the action – and this is just what they did.

Nevertheless, there were few signs in 1983 that there was any real recovery in the sport. The downward spiral which began with the withdrawal of the factory teams at the end of the 1970s continued largely unabated and the championship fields were further weakened by the absence of Ed Mulligan, Tony Masling and Doug Thompson.

The only light at the end of the tunnel was Group A, introduced by CAMS into the sport at the beginning of 1982 when racing went this way. Group A was for near standard cars and it produced arguments, protests, controversy, and precious little good competition but it was still the pointer to the future. It was the only way that factory teams were ever going to be enticed back into the sport to introduce new models and wide spread publicity and promotion.

Ross Dunkerton was the eventual championship winner and it took him three different cars and two different navigators to do so. The points system was equal for CAMS Group G and Group A categories – the best placed Group G crew were awarded 20 points and the best placed Group A crew also received 20 points – even if the latter finished in 15th outright place.

Dunkerton was equal third in Perth (Datsun 1600 Group G), won in Queensland (Datsun Stanza Group G), did not finish in New South Wales (entered Stanza Group G) then came 15th in the Victorian round in a Group A Holden Commodore – thus earning 20 points which gave him a total of 56 ½.

Peter Johnson, Group A Mazda RX7 was second with 55 points, finishing each event well behind many Group G cars but getting high points for finishing high amongst the Group A cars.

David Officer/Kate Hobson (Group G Mitsubishi Galant) were the best placed Group G car but were third in the championship with 54 ½ points. They were the most consistent throughout the year with an equal third in the first round, and then third places in the other three rounds.

As Dunkerton was reported to have said … ”I sleazed it in”. Geoff Jones, who ran the first three events with Johnson, changed to navigate Dunkerton in the last event and was the champion navigator, with Kate Hobson second.

It was a somewhat complicated year in determining the championship points!!

The only crew to win more than one round was Ian Hill/Phil Bonser (Ford Escort RS 1800). Hugh Bell (Mazda-engined Datsun 1600 – ‘Dazda’) led each of the three rounds he contested but fell by the wayside in each of them, but he was far and away the most entertaining driver in the country.

Geoff Portman ran out of time preparing his Nissan Bluebird Turbo and had to miss the first two rounds and was an early retirement in the other two. Greg Carr started the year with a win in Perth but then things went wrong. His first rollover in a 13-year career put him out in Queensland, and in the last two rounds he was leading comfortably but suffered terminal problems with the Fiat 131 Abarth.

Colin Bond and George Fury made a couple of appearances with no results, Wayne Bell lacked a competitive car and picked up a sixth in Queensland. Ron Marks and Bob Watson ran Renault R5 turbos, but with any success.

The championship events themselves were much the same as the previous year, apart from the lack of an event in South Australia.

A conclusion at the end of 1983 was that the outdated dinosaurs that were running in Group G had lingered too long in the sport and taken Australian rallying off down a desolate and remote path and must be replaced by cars which have credibility with the public, manufacturers and the international rally community. It generally was felt that when this happened the downward spiral which afflicts the sport should be halted and eventually reversed.

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Ross Dunkerton/David Kortlang in the Datsun 1600

Ross Dunkerton changes to a PRC Holden Commodore to take off maximum points to win his fifth Australian Rally Championship title. Here with navigator David Kortlang

 

1984 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

The 17th Australian Rally Championship was held over six events across Australia, the season consisting of one event each for Queensland and West Australia and two each for New South Wales and Victoria. It was an unusual season, with very little manufacturer backing and a mix of classes with the introduction of the Production Rally Car (PRC) Category. Both PRC and Group G were awarded equal points towards the championship, with bonus points for the first four outright placings. This was to cause a split in the sport which became a huge rift as the season progressed, as the various factions hardened their attitudes to the unusual scoring method. So it was a strange and difficult year, which again saw rallying wandering in the motor sport wilderness, but there were signs of revival of manufacturer interest, with Subaru standing on the sidelines during the latter part of the year looking to decide to enter a fleet to four-wheel drive cars.

At the start of the year the obvious title contenders were Greg Carr, Geoff Portman and David Officer in the Group G category, while Ed Mulligan decided to try the PRC ‘back door’ to victory. In the end only Officer and Mulligan stayed within their original plans as both Carr and Portman made a foray into PRC during the series.

1984 may have been Officers year but Greg Carr was the fastest driver in the ‘time bomb’ – as the Fiat 131 Abarth was referred to – managing to end the Carr/Fred Gocentas prpospects of winning the series with a series of unpredictable, and sometimes unexplained, mechanical failures, quite unlike their 1983 experience.

Portman had a difficult year with the Nissan Bluebird, the choice of vehicle being a poor one; Ian Hill/Phil Bonser did well with the ex-works Ford Escort (picking up a win) and Murray Coote/Iain Stewart picked up top placings with their radical and well-prepared Datsun 1200. Ross Dunkerton appeared twice in his Datsun 1600 and evergreen Clive Slater continued his cross-country forays from Perth, but without any success, although he picked up a very fine second in his home championship event. George Fury made a single appearance in the Alpine Rally and Hugh Bell, after a fine 1983, slipped back, finishing in the top ten on only one occasion.

David Officer, with Kate Hobson (later Officer) took off the first event at Bairnsdale in Victoria after both Portman and Carr fell by the wayside; Ed Mulligan’s plan via the PRC route immediately paid off when he took maximum PRC points to equal Officer, but who was just ahead because of the extra bonus points. Then at Bathurst, Carr/Fred Gocentas took off the win from Hill and Portman, with Mulligan again leading PRC. Officer slid off the road into retirement.

Round three was in Queensland where Carr again won, ahead of Officer and Coote, with Mulligan continuing his winning streak in PRC. Then for the Perth round Carr swapped to the Jim Middleton’s PRC Commodore in an effort to check Mulligan and was successful. The Dunlop-2GO, again replacing the long standing Bega Valley Rally, and run for the first time as a four day event, saw Ian Hill/Phil Bonser take the win, ahead of Officer and Dunkerton. Japanese driver Hotta and Wayne Bell (driving the second Fiat to run interference in Mulligan’s point-scoring) checked Mulligan into third PRC place.

This all meant that the title battle went down to the running of the Alpine Rally, where Officer took off the event and the championship. Mulligan needed to win PRC to take the championship but came second to Jim Middleton/Garry Marshall.

Although the scoring for Group G and PRC caused controversy at least it made the season interesting.

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1984 Australian Rally Champions – David Officer, Kate Hobson and Mitsubishi Galant

 

1985 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

1985 was the first year that the new Group A (PRC) category gained real support and credibility and the first time that a Group A car and crew took off the national championship – thanks mostly to the efforts of a lone manufacturer, Subaru, for getting the ball rolling. Subaru imported a batch of four-wheel-drive RX Turbo sedans and provided them at a subsidised price to some top privateers.

Barry Lowe/Kevin Pedder, from South Australia, took the plunge in taking on a Subaru (Pedders sponsored) and went on the win the series in the last of six rounds, leading from Hugh Bell/Steve Ellis in the also Pedders sponsorship Group G Mazda RX7 by three championship points.

Mazda started an association with the sport by providing a Mazda RX7 for Queensland’s Gregg Hansford/Dale Payne. Their best result for the year was a second in their home round, mixed with a series of did-not-finishes, but Mazda was happy enough with the exposure to think about doing what Subaru did, by using the 323 4WD in 1986. The company’s enthusiasm was also ignited by a sparkling win in the Queensland round by Murray Coote/Iain Stewart in a 323 4WD, ahead of Hansford.

1985 also saw the lack of big name drivers from previous years. Greg Carr had only two starts in borrowed cars for two failures, George Fury made one appearance in South Australia, and there was no sign at all of Geoff Portman nor defending champion David Officer.

Hugh Bell was favoured to win but, although his driving matured enormously to enable him to stay on the road and finish most events, he had offs in the RX7 in Queensland and in South Australia which cost him time, and as he elected not to go to Perth, he was overtaken by Barry Lowe’s consistent outright and Group A results. Although Bell won three events to Lowe’s one he didn’t quite do enough to take victory.

Ron Cremen and Wayne Bell provided some variety with their Toyota Corolla GT’s. Cremen, with Ray Temple, placed three times in the top ten and Bell, with Dave Boddy, showed that the Subarus could be beaten by producing some quick times but he was always struck by problems just when he seemed on course for a Group A victory.

The only driver to really arrive at the top level in 1985 was Tasmanian Andrew Murfett, with Pip Welch, who did well in an elderly Mazda RX2 and made his presence felt as a top contender, crashing in Perth when he was in the lead.

Although the year provided some close and varied competition it was as difficult and disappointing as any in recent years. Two events were cancelled, there were trouble with others, and although Subaru was present there were not enough Group A cars to provide a viable championship once the Group G cars became ineligible for national championship points, as was being suggested by CAMS.

There eventually were six events in the series, with South Australia returning to Adelaide after a five-year absence and this meant there would be a round in each state for the first time. Tasmania provided the opener and was the most popular event of the year, Bathurst withdrew and was replaced by the returning Bega Valley Rally, and the Alpine Rally also withdrew, replaced by the Akademos, which was badly affected by wet weather and was shortened beyond any reasonable competitive length, but it still counted for championship points.

Both the Queensland and South Australian rounds fell short of the standard required for a national event, the former badly affected by rain and the latter by accusation of jumped starts, shortcutting and pacenotes.

One issue arose during the year – whether to allow pacenoting. The events in South Australia and Victoria raised the question in supposedly ‘secret’ course events and whether events are to be open to such activity.

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1985 Australian Rally Champions – Barry Lowe, Kevin Pedder and Subaru RX Turbo

 

1986 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Barry Lowe put together a new Subaru for 1986 when his 1985 sponsor and navigator Kevin Pedder moved on after the first event, and Mark Stacey took over the left seat. In 1985 he grafted the championship title, and he did it again in 1986 when no one crew dominated the series in terms of outright wins. Lowe won one event (his home round in South Australia) and was second in Queensland, third in both Tasmania and West Australia, and sixth in the Bega Rally and seventh in the Alpine. He was 17 points ahead of David Officer in the Mitsubishi Starion, who also won his home event (Alpine Rally) and took off a second, third, fourth, sixth and eighth in the other rounds, to hold off Andrew Murfett/Tony Jackson in the Mazda 323 4WD by two points.

As Mark Stacey missed the first round of the series this let Kate Officer (nee Hobson) take off the Navigators Championship – by one point for her second title win in three years – and it was very rare that the driver and navigator champions were not from the same car.

1986 was a season which was another lacklustre series which was marked by small fields, poor organisation and illconceived scheduling of events. The two most difficult events to get to – Tasmania and Western Australia – were only three weeks apart, then two further rounds a month apart followed by a three month break to the last two rounds.

One pleasing feature for the proponents of vehicle eligibility change was the increasing crop of Group A cars which swelled the ranks of top-line drivers to battle for outright placings against the highly modified Group G machines – the fragile but potentially very quick Alfa GTV6 of Greg Carr/Fred Gocentas, Mazda 323 Familias of Murfett and Murray Coote/Iain Stewart, Mitsubishi Starion of Officer, and Wayne Bell/Dave Boddy with the Toyota Corolla GT. The Group A cars dominated such that they took out four of the six rounds.

The first round in Tasmania was won by Peter Glennie/Coral Taylor (Group G Datsun 120Y) with Officer second and Lowe third. In the second round in Western Australia Bell, probably the quickest driver of the year, took out the honors ahead of Peter Clark/Wayne Kenny (Group A Subaru) and Lowe. Then came the Bega Valley Rally where local junior David Eadie, with Chris Shearer took off a win in his battered-looking Datsun 1600, followed by another 1600 of Ron McKinnon/Steve Owers and third went to Greg Carr in the Alfa.

A disastrously organised Queensland round was won by Andrew Murfett with the 323, with Lowe picking up second and Murray Coote third. In October it was South Australia’s turn and Lowe lived up to expectations by winning the round from Murfett and Officer.

So, heading to the final round, the Alpine Rally, Lowe was in the strong position of only having to finish no lower than fourth in Group A to take out his second successive title, with Officer close enough to grab it if he failed.

George Fury/Mick Harker (Group G Datsun 120Y) were presented with the winner’s laurels at the finish – Fury had never previously won this event – but they were deemed to have taken a short cut of the course by the Stewards and were excluded from the event, giving the lead to David and Kate Officer. Lowe/Stacey finished seventh overall, and fourth Group A to give him the 1986 championship.

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1986 Australian Rally Champion Driver and Car – Barry Lowe and Subaru RX Turbo
Kate Officer won the Navigation Championship

 

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.

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

 

1988 CAMS AUSTRALIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

There were a handful of crews that started the first round of the 1988 series who were regarded as having any chance of taking off the championship. Defending champions Greg Carr/Fred Gocentas were in a Mitsubishi Starion Turbo, Wayne Bell/Dave Boddy in a Mazda 323 4WD, as was Murray Coote/Iain Stewart. David and Kate Officer were back in a Mitsubishi Starion, and Ed Ordynski in a Subaru RX Turbo.

The number of rounds were down to four, with the South Australian Tiles Supplies Rally and the Alpine Rally out from the 1987 itinerary. Tasmania once again opened the season and two contenders saw their chances slip away right from the beginning – Ordynski’s Subaru blew a turbocharger, and he did not reappear until the last round, and Bell’s 323 broke a gearbox. Murray Coote took his 323 to the lead, with Greg Carr second almost four minutes behind him, after early finding the Starion a handful and then it broke a throttle. The Officers were off the pace.

Perth hosted the second round, as usual. The Officers’ national chances disappeared when their Starion was stranded on a broken-down transporter somewhere on the Nullabor and they couldn’t start. Bell took the lead after Clive Slater (Toyota Corolla) hit a tree to put him out of the event, and he was never headed. Carr came second and Coote third, although he was in the championship lead by two points from Carr, with Bell 10 points further back.

David Eadie/Chris Shearer (Mazda 323) continued their dominance of the Bega Valley Rally with a three minute win from Mark Roach/Mark Price (Mazda 323), followed by Carr and Coote. Bell, desperately needing a high placing in this event, worked his way into second place and had his sights on the leader Eadie when the Mazda lost compression and any hopes for a championship win were dead.

The next round was to be in Queensland and conducted, for the first time, over closed shire roads. However, seven days out Queensland Police would not issue a permit for the event – despite signed agreements with the residents – and an appeal to the Premier’s Department on the decision was not upheld.

The Rally of Australia, conducted around Canberra, was then included in the Championship. Pace-noting was permitted and Coote and Carr, vying for the championship, gave it everything they had until Carr’s Starion stopped while crossing a water causeway and valuable time was lost. Coote went on to win by under two minutes with Eadie/Shearer second, Peter Clark/Dave Boddy were third, 16 seconds behind second, and Carr was fourth, 51 seconds further away. Wayne Bell did not compete due to the impending birth of a child, and this gave Peter Clark the opportunity to drive his car.

Four wheel drive cars won all four rounds and all came from the same manufacturer – Mazda – and it was hard to see a two wheel drive car winning the championship again with the coming introduction of the Toyota Celica GT4 and Levin GT (Sprinter), Ford Sierra RS Cosworth and the Mitsubishi Galant GR-4.

So, the conversion to Group A (PRC), and Group N, from the highly modified Group G cars was now complete and the future of rallying involving manufacturers, greater publicity and increased spectator numbers, as well as a round of the World Rally Championship based in Perth, was looking very bright indeed.

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1988 Australian Rally Champions – Murray Coote, Iain Stewart and Mazda 323 4WD

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