Australian Rally History

by Tom Snooks

1974 Southern Cross Rally

‘THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN’

9 – 13 OCTOBER 1974

SYDNEY – PORT MACQUARIE

Andrew Cowan/John Bryson in the Mitsubishi Lancer GSR – from the cover of the 1975 regulations booklet

Summary

It is only rarely in the tough and highly competitive world of big-time international rallying that one driver can come to completely dominate a major event. Yet it seemed that Scottish driver Andrew Cowan somehow learnt the special secret of winning the Southern Cross International Rally, the major event on the Australian rallying calendar and indeed, one of the major events on the nation’s motorsport calendar.

When Cowan, with John Bryson, finished the 1974 event this crew had won it for three consecutive years (and was Cowan’s fourth, given his win in 1969).

The 1974 Southern Cross International Rally was remarkable for having the lowest number (seven) of finishers of the entire route in the rally’s nine year history. It had hardly seemed possible that any Southern Cross International Rally could be harder than the 1973 ‘Wet One’ when torrential rain reduced the 72 starters to only nine cars (which completed the whole course). Once again, inclement weather played some part in this demise of the field, with slippery mountain climbs on the first and second nights putting many crews outside their late time limit.

On top of this there was confusion over the correct interpretation of the regulations on the late time limit which resulted in a protest being upheld by the event’s Stewards just before the start of the third division. Many crews thought they were out of late time and didn’t front up for the start. As the word that the protest was upheld spread, which allowed some of them to restart, there was a mad dash to get to the start line, but not all made it. Of the 33 crews who booked in after the second division only 16 started the third.

Swede Harry ‘Sputnik’ Kallstrom (remembered for his trademark moustache), with experienced driver/navigator Roger Bonhomme, was equal placed first in his Datsun 710 with Cowan (Lancer) at the end of the first punishing night. It was his first drive in Australia.

‘Young’ George Fury/Monty Suffern (180B SSS) was third whilst ‘veterans’ Doug Stewart/Dave Johnson (Lancer) were fourth. 115

Due to the conditions on the first night the retirement list was enormous and only 40 of the 61 starters survived the night – indicating that there may well be a small number to complete the course.

Starting equal on the second night, there was promise of a titanic struggle between Cowan and Kallstrom. However, this was not to be as the Swedish driver’s 710’s front end fell apart when he crashed on a difficult corner in the very first section of the night and dropped out of the event.

Doug Stewart retired, stuck at the bottom a hill down a wrong road, and he shared this patch of ground with Gary Mecak in his Mazda RX3!

Once Kallstrom retired Cowan was able to slow down a bit from ‘flat chat’ and still retain his lead. He sat on 122 points, ahead of Ferguson on 150 (who climbed from ninth to second in this second division), Fury on 155, and Singh (up from 12th) on 176.

The third night took in some of the Horseshoe Road and the Bellingen River long water crossing (the latter in a transport section). Many of the gathered spectators at the river saw Barry Ferguson put the Lancer on its side on a right-hander after the crossing and, after being tipped backed on its wheels, the red-faced driver continued on his way.

Jim Laing-Peach retired his Subaru with a blown head-gasket, and Bathurst crew Rod Jones/Arthur Davis had problems at servicing and ran out of late time. Rod Millen’s challenge came to an end when the Mazda’s differential expired at a control.

Only ten crews started the last night and Kanno quickly retired with a broken differential; Shinozuka was outed as he did not report to 80% of the required controls; Fury hit a bank and worked feverishly to get to the finish in time; Robert Jackson (Holden Torana XUI), who kept out of trouble for the entire event, but on this last night he was also lucky to get to the finish in time after being stuck in a creek crossing without the starter motor operating, catching fire and leaving the road.

Barry Ferguson finished all of the competition and stopped for a routine service and car clean up before the finish podium and could not restart the Lancer. No-one could sort out the ignition problem and slowly the late time limit caught up with Fergie and he was out, for the crews had to report with their car to the very last control on top of the dais at the finish. It was later found that dirt was shortening out the contacts.

And so the 1974 Southern Cross International Rally was left with its Magnificent Seven.

Final Placings

1Andrew CowanJohn BrysonMitsubishi Lancer GSR209 pts
2Joginder SinghGary ConnellyMitsubishi Lancer GSR272
3Tatsuo YaginumaHarau OkadaToyota Trueno441
4George FuryMonty SuffernDatsun 180B SSS1051
5Yoshio IwashitaNobuhiro YasuokaDatsun 710 SSS2021
6Robert JacksonRoss JacksonHolden Torana XU12528
7John MunroWal HarrisDatsun 16003709

 

Read about the 1974 Southern Cross Rally in the document below.

1974 Southern Cross Rally