“Trials in Australia in 1966 have been the biggest ever, with principal ‘works’ teams doing battle in almost every state. Culmination of this  highly exciting branch of the Sport will be the  International Southern Cross Rally in October. Article David Atkinson has presented a scene we may expect to see somewhere along the route. Reprints are available at 10 cente per copy”

1966
5 – 9 OCTOBER
SYDNEY – MELBOURNE - SYDNEY

PREAMBLE

The Southern Cross International Rally was organised by the Australian Sporting Car Club (ASCC), based in Sydney. The club organised the Redex Trials (1953-1955) and Ampol Trials of 1956, 1957, 1958 and 1964. 

The event was conducted in early October, starting on the Thursday and taking in the weekend after the Bathurst touring car race. This started in 1966, when the Bathurst race (the Gallaher 500), attracted international drivers who competed at Bathurst in Morris Mini Cooper S cars under the BMC banner headed by Gus Staunton –  Paddy Hopkirk (dnf in the race) and Rauno Aaltonen (who won the race) - to also take part in the newly introduced Southern Cross International Rally.

SUMMARY

The inaugural ‘Southern Cross’ Rally in 1966, directed by Bob Selby-Wood, brought classic international rallying to Australia. Attracting 69 starters, including European stars Paddy Hopkirk and Rauno Aaltonen in their state-of-the-art Cooper S cars, the 3500 kilometre event ran from Sydney to Melbourne and back, via Canberra.

The event was not conducted for ‘amateurs’ or novices. After commencing with relatively easy stages the rally intensified as the kilometres passed, with the final night from Canberra to Sydney testing the endurance of all the crews and their will to finish.

There was no limit on the amount of the course that could be missed provided the late time limit was achieved at the end of a division; missing a control led to a penalty of 200 points.

Final Outright Placings

1 Harry Firth Graham Hoinville Ford Cortina GT 130 points
2 Greg Garard Frank Goulburn Holden HK 155 points
3 Ian Vaughan Roger Vaughan Ford Cortina GT 164 points
4 Reg Lunn Geoff Thomas Holden HR 180 points
5 Frank Kilfoyle Bob Forsyth Ford Cortina GT 184 points

Series Production Class Placings

A Up to 1000cc Bob Gudgeon A. Platt Honda
B 1001 to 1300cc James Laing-Peach P. Smith Renault 10
C 1301 to 2000cc Ian Vaughan Roger Vaughan Cortina GT
D Over 2000cc Tony Roberts Peter Hass Holden HR

Special Production Class Placings

E Up to 1000cc Charles Ryder Trevor French Morris Cooper
F 1001 to 1300cc Evan Green John Keeffe Morris Cooper S
G 1301 to 2000cc Harry Firth Graham Hoinville Ford Cortina GT
H Over 2000cc Greg Garard Frank Goulburn Holden HR

Manufacturers Award: Ford Motor Company
Ladies Award: Carol Shaw/Lynne Keeffe, Morris Mini

VEHICLE ELIGIBILITY

Vehicle eligibility was the same as for 1966:

  • FIA Group 2 (Series Production Touring Cars – open and closed, of which at least 1000 units to be produced within a 12 consecutive months; or
  • FIA Group 5 (Special Touring Cars), which allowed significant further mechanical modification except that the engine must be from the same manufacturer and have the same number of cylinders and configuration; or
  • CAMS Group D & E.

 In 1966 the FIA introduced a number of new categories including one for highly modified touring cars, officially known as Group 5 Special Touring Cars. The regulations permitted vehicle modifications beyond those allowed in the concurrent Group 1 and Group 2 Touring Car categories. The Special Touring Cars category was discontinued after 1969.

EVENT DETAILS/ ORGANISING TEAM

Event Details

The event was conducted over some 4000 kilometres.

Organising Team

Bob Selby-Wood

Checker:                  Bede McNabb
Clerks of Course:   Pat Lawless, John Lawless, Rex Shearer, John Sykes
Chief Scrutineer:   Fred Pearse

Sponsor
Rothmans of Pall Mall

ENTRIES

71 entries were received for the event and 38 finished.

Works teams entered were Ford, British Motor Corporation (Morris), Renault and Volkswagen, with a Dealer-supported Mitsubishi team.

Ford entered a well prepared team of drivers in Harry Firth, Frank Kilfoyle and Ian Vaughan, whilst BMC imported Paddy Hopkirk and Rauno Aaltonen, and supported them with Evan Green and Bob Holden.

Holden was represented by two entries from a New South Wales dealer and three from Victorian dealers.

All the way from Western Australia were Bob Bullock and Murray Stubber.

Barry Ferguson

Evan Green

Harry Firth

Doug Stewart

Frank Kilfoyle

Paddy Hopkirk

Bob Watson

Rauno Aaltonen

Start Order

The start order was determined by public ballot, conducted within five categories of drivers:

Category 1 drivers who had finished up to an including sixth outright in an international rally
Category 2 drivers who finished up to and including 12th in an international rally; or up to and including sixth in a national championship rally
Category 3 drivers placed up to and including third in class classification in an international rally or up to and including 12th in a national championship rally
Category 4 drivers who had completed the course of an international rally or a rally of national championship status
Category 5 drivers not classified in Categories 1 to 4 above.
THE EVENT

The first Southern Cross International Rally began at ‘Roselands’, a large shopping complex west of Sydney, at 5pm on October 5th.  Day rest stops were taken at Wagga Wagga, Melbourne and Canberra.

The first car to start the first Southern Cross International Rally was the Nissan Gloria, driven by Carl Kennedy

Roads were not closed to the public. The competition included ‘special stages’, in which crews lost one point for each 15 seconds late over the time allowed; on ‘non-special stages’ (ie: open public roads!) the penalty was one minute per minute late. The Victorian State Council would not permit the ‘special stages’ concept to be used whilst the event was in that state. Times allowed were usually based on an average speed of 48 mph (approximately 80km/h), and quite often sections were clean-sheeted by the leading crews.

Servicing had to be carried out in competitors’ own time, which could lead to loss of points on the transport sections (one minute per minute late).

The first night's run to Wagga Wagga was via familiar rally country west of Sydney, over relatively easy sections, passing through Crookwell, Boorowa and Nannong. Four cars – two Coopers and two Volkswagens retired on this run. The Internationals, Aaltonen and Hopkirk proved to be as good as reported – even better – but they had car preparation problems and they lost a lot of time whilst their service crews made their cars competitive.

By Wagga Wagga quite a few crews had clean-sheeted – amongst them were Barry Ferguson (Volkswagen), Frank Kilfoyle (Cortina), Greg Gerard, Tony Roberts and Bob Watson (Holdens), Evan Green (Mini) – and future 1970 Ampol Trial Director Carl Kennedy in a Gloria. Harry Firth lost 2 points.

The second night’s run became more competitive in very dusty conditions on the way to Tumbarumba, then onto Jingellic and Talgarno to Bethanga, where the legend of the ‘Bethanga Stampede’ started, with four competitive sections conducted in the form of a cloverleaf out from and back in to the town The main street (there was only one!) was very busy with cars going in all directions for hours. There were lights everywhere, cheering crowds and frantic drivers trying to make the allowed times.

The stage into Bethanga was a 30 minute dash over a switchback forest trail and Aaltonen did best losing 33 points (ie: 8 minutes), and then came Firth (34), Nolan (Renault Gordini 35), Hopkirk (37) and Ferguson (38). The good drivers made the next two sections on time and then came an 8 kilometre run in 6 minutes. Doug Stewart (Mini 1100 with a 1310 engine) was the only clean-sheeter but there were three gates on this section which were to be opened and closed by each competitor, but Stewart (and Watson) found them open!  Ferguson lost 2 points, followed by Winkless (Volvo 3), Hopkirk, Green and Vaughan all with 4.

Then through Albury, Wangaratta (where Bob Watson’s motor packed up, but he managed to repair it and keep going), Myrtleford, Whitfield, Mansfield and Healesville to the Melbourne rest break, where the results were:

1. Barry Ferguson/Tony Denham (Volkswagen) 40
2. Harry Firth/Graham Hoinville (Ford Cortina) 49
3. Frank Kilfoyle/Bob Forsythe (Cortina) 50
4. Ian Vaughan/Roger Vaughan (Cortina) 52
5. Greg Garard/Frank Goulburn (Holden HR) 53
6. Evan Green/John Keeffe (Cooper S) 54

56 cars remained in the event.

After Melbourne, the Minis proved their speed on good surfaces, with Hopkirk and Aaltonen putting in good times on a loop near Pakenham, east of Melbourne, where all but these two drivers lost time, and they were best in a section near Gormandale, south east of Traralgon.

Then on through Bairnsdale to Buchan, followed by a long grind north through Suggan Buggan to Cooma, a rough ride but cleanable by the top crews.

After Cooma a special stage through Yaouk was in familiar territory for Southern Mountains Trial competitors in the rally and presented no difficulty. This was followed by a fast run into Tharwa and hence to Canberra for a respite before continuing to Sydney through what Bob Selby-Wood promised would the toughest part of the event.

The cars were showing the effects of the long run from Melbourne to Canberra, with Evan Green’s Mini Cooper S, navigated by future CAMS CEO John Keeffe, dropping points regularly, and Tony Robert’s Holden suffering wheel bearing problems over the latter stages.

At Canberra the leading crews were:

1. Barry Ferguson (Volkswagen) 57
2. Harry Firth (Ford Cortina) 59
3. Frank Kilfoyle (Ford Cortina) 60
4. Ian Vaughan (Ford Cortina) 63

Others were within striking distance of these leaders.

53 cars remained in the rally.

With one night to go, the event was still wide open, for most of the remaining competition was based on special stages (with crews losing one point per 15 seconds over the time allowed).

Restarting from the outskirts of Canberra the pace was ‘on’. Ferguson was feeling the hot breath of the opposition on his neck, and on the run to Collector, just north of Canberra, he nosed the Volkswagen heavily into a tree when he overdid it on a blind crest leading into a surprise corner. Although the car was driveable (the engine was in the rear!!!) Ferguson had no lights, so he withdrew.  This handed the lead to Firth. Kilfoyle had troubles, blowing a tyre on his Cortina in a deep river crossing and this cost him 34 valuable points, and any chance of second place.

The best driver’s section of the event came after Braidwood – the notorious Araluen loop. Hopkirk was best with 17 points lost, Firth and Gerard followed with 20, and this section was followed by an impossible run to Reidsdale, with Firth and Kilfoyle best, both losing 42 points.

The leading VW met with ‘Fergie’s Tree

Then onto Nowra, followed by a run in the Kangaroo Valley area, with plenty of steep climbing and downhill running where the brakes were suffering, particularly on the larger cars, but this was the last fling before arriving at the finish back at Roselands. However, the Firth Cortina badly needed oil and he and navigator Hoinville managed to get some from a control official and this saw them through to the finish.

The leading VW met with ‘Fergie’s Tree

Final results were:

1. Harry Firth/Graham Hoinville  (Ford Cortina) 130
2. Greg Garard/Frank Goulburn (Holden HR) 155
3. Ian Vaughan/Roger Vaughan (Ford Cortina) 164
4. Reg Lunn/G. Thomas (Holden HR) 180
5. Frank Kilfoyle/Bob Forsythe (Cortina) 184

Harry Firth/Graham Hoinville arriving back at Roselands

Winners are grinners – Harry Firth and Graham Hoinville

EVENT SIDELINES

Four nights of the Southern Cross Rally were tough enough to give everyone a share of trouble:

  • Firth’s run to Melbourne was amazing as, barely out of Albury, his Cortina suffered a cracked cam follower and his engine ran on only two cylinders – 200 320 kilometres later he found a spark plug lead adrift so the car then had three cylinders, and he was able to make fastest time on many special sections! Once in Melbourne he made full use of an hour’s free time to service the car and, at his well-equipped workshop at Auburn (Melbourne suburb) the engine was whipped out and the followers replaced and the engine refitted – all in 52 minutes! Navigator Graham Hoinville later wrote a graphic description of this episode.
  • Ray Christie’s Volkswagen has electrical trouble from the start; Evan Green (Morris 1100) had suspension and motor worries; Doug Chivas’ Alfa Romeo had its generator pack up and had tyre problems; John Schwartz split the sump of his Volkswagen; Brian Hilton’s Morris 1100 had no third gear after the first day); the rear axle on Keith Hutchison’s Citroen worked loose; Bill Nolan’s Renault Gordini broke an oil pipe and Bill Burns’ Fiat rear sub-frame gave up the ghost. Plus many others!!!

Rothman’s sponsorship and the Australian Sporting Car Club’s initiative in running the Southern Cross Rally brought ‘modern rallying’ to the country and provided an incentive to the best drivers, navigators and cars to compete against each other. The event established the future of rallying in Australia, which shortly led to the introduction of the Australian Rally Championship (1968).

PHOTOGRAPHS

NSW Rally Champion, Greg Garard, forges through a creek in his HR Holden.

Paddy Hopkirk checks the wheel clearance on his Cooper S after the displacers blew out

Bob Watson pulls his Holden round a bend past the unlucky Murray Stubber Holden

Veteran of seven Round Austraia Trials, Bob Gudgeon churns through the mud in his Honda on the way to a class win. Terry Crawford was not so lucky with the Mini.

As Bob Holden’s navigator, George Shepheard, said: “The roads were good, the times were good – but the trees were a bit anxious”. They were one of four who hit ‘Fergie’s Tree’ near Collector

Jack Forrest’s Volvo was the third of four victims claimed by ‘Fergie’s Tree’ – which had quite a busy time that night

Black soil may be good for cricket pitches but it is dreaded by rally crews” Fred Logan eventually had to wait for a tow out in his Cortina

And there were gates, and gates ….. 53 of them!

This was a time before road engineers and heavy duty earth moving machinery!

Fred Logan demonstrates the crew safety features of the day – none! No harness (not even a seatbelt), no helmet, no driving suit, no balaclava

The Official Notice Board!

Who else, but Jack ‘Gelignite’ Murray

James Laing-Peach in a Renault 10

Peter Walz said to his navigator: “I wouldn’t get out that side if I were you Bob”

Just before Cooma Ferguson powers on to make sure he retains the lead.