Australian Rally History

by Tom Snooks

1977 Southern Cross Rally

8 – 13 OCTOBER 1977

Start: Sydney (Amaroo Park) – Finish: Sydney (Motorcade to Hyde Park)

Rauno Aaltonen and Jeff Beaumont took the Datsun 710 SSS to victory in 1977

DATSUN WINS AT LAST!

The withdrawal of the Mitsubishi factory team was not only a serious blow for the event, but it meant the absence of six time winner, Andrew Cowan.

However, the Southern Cross International Rally had provided plenty of excitement and much colour over the years and 1977 was no exception, with some stirring battles being fought between Datsun and Ford. This was the truly never-to-be-forgotten (to those who witnessed it) Golden Era of Australian Rallying, with Datsun and Ford fighting each other in the Australian Rally Championship with drivers Ross Dunkerton and George Fury (Datsun) v Colin Bond and Greg Carr (Ford) – and mention must be made of their navigators of this era, Jeff Beaumont and Monty Suffern v John Dawson-Damer and Fred Gocentas.

Datsun, at last, had a clear sweep of the field, winning the event for the first time in six years of officially having entered it, with Aaltonen, Kallstrom and Watson filling the first three places in Datsun 710s. However, it is fair to say that although Mitsubishi ended its direct factory involvement after 1976 following its five consecutive wins, four Lancers still finished in the top ten, headed by the semi-works driver Kenjiro Shinozuka in fourth place. Ford’s best was fifth, with Greg Carr fitting in here.

However, for some time the Datsun win didn’t look too apparent as Carr, in the Ford Australia Escort RS1800 (with a 16-valve twin cam motor that was built in Boreham, England) drove brilliantly, particularly on the third night, and took a commanding lead of nine minutes. Then halfway through the final night the alternator failed and, without a spare, he had to run using batteries alone and finished fifth. His reduced speed let the Datsuns sweep through to a great victory. That’s rallying!!

Colin Bond drove a Ford Escort RS2000, with the twin-cam two litre motor, but didn’t have a happy event. He rolled on a gentle bend in the long ‘Horseshoe’ stage, breaking the steering in the incident. However, with the Escorts running in the event, this was a foretaste of the magnificent tussle that was ahead in the next couple of years against the Datsun Stanzas.

A significant international driver was Stig Blomqvist in a Saab, supported by local Dean Rainsford in a similar car.

There was the now usual large contingent (20) of privateers from Japan, headed by Shinozuka and Iwashita. The MHDT returned in a Gemini for Wayne Bell. Entries were also received from Indonesia, Turkey and PNG. There were many fancied local privateers also, including the Gosford Dyno Tune team with Lancers for Ian Hill and for Ross Jackson.

Shekhar Mehta took off seventh in the PB210; then came the Australian privateers, Ian Hill and Arthur Jackson (both Lancers), a Japanese driver (Kanno – Lancer) ninth and the top ten was rounded off by a New Zealander (Blair Robson – Lancer)

This year’s event included the famous ‘Horseshoe’ stage (the course being in the shape of a horseshoe!) which ran for 236 kilometres between Bellingen and Kempsey. This was without a service break and crews had to carry out refuelling in their own time!

Crews were required to report to 100% of all main controls in each division to be eligible for general classification and awards.

Final Placings

1Rauno AaltonenJeff BeaumontDatsun 710 SSS80.40
2Harry KallstromClaes BillstamDatsun 710 SSS87.85
3Bob WatsonPeter GoddenDatsun 710 SSS113.96
4Kenjiro ShinozukaGary ConnellyMitsubishi Lancer116.24
5Greg CarrWayne GregsonFord Escort RS1800153.30
6Shekhar MehtaAdrian MortimerDatsun PB 210164.32
7Ian HillGraham RoserMitsubishi Lancer196.80
8Arthur JacksonPeter BerrimanMitsubishi Lancer216.69
9Shingeru KannoKiyoshi KawamuraMitsubishi Lancer236.18
10Blair RobsonChris PorterFord Escort RS1800270.12

 

Read about the 1977 Cross Rally in the document below.

1977 Southern Cross Rally