Andrew Cowan/Dave Johnson won the 1969 Southern Cross Internation Rally in the 1968 ex-London to Sydney Marathon Austin 1800

conducted by

AUSTRALIAN SPORTING CAR CLUB LIMITED


1969
8 – 12 OCTOBER
SURFERS PARADISE – LISMORE - TOOWOOMBA – SURFERS PARADISE

PREAMBLE

The New South Wales tourist resort town of Port Macquarie became the host town to the 1970 Southern Cross Rally, again directed by Alan Lawson. In between starting and finishing in Sydney, the event spent three nights at Port Macquarie, with its thousands of square miles of adjacent forests, ideal for the way rallying was developing now that shire roads were not readily available.

The new area allowed for an event in excess of 3000 kilometre and was considered to be able to provide competition at least half as tough again as previous events, although 1969 was not considered to be as tough as the first three years, when the event passed through the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria.

The Southern Cross International Rally was becoming a major undertaking, and one that brought rewards to entrants and competitors, and also to the commercial and tourist interests who supported it. With this kind of support, the event looked forward to be being Australia’s answer to some of the top overseas events.

The starting order was by ballot within five categories which unlike previous years, reflected the more international status of the event. The first category was drivers who had placed up to 6th in an international rally. The second category was for drivers placed up to 12th in any international rally or up to 6th in a national championship rally. The third category was for drivers who had placed up to 3rd in class in an international rally or up to 12th in a national championship rally. The fourth category was drivers who had completed the course of an international rally or national championship rally. The fifth category was for unclassified drivers.

Crews were required to report to at least forty percent of main controls in each division to be eligible for general classification and awards.

SUMMARY

One of the favourites to win the event, 1968 winner John Keran, was the victim of a sensational crash in a LJ Torana in the ‘Hardie-Ferodo 500’ conducted the weekend before the Southern Cross Rally, in which he broke one of his legs.

78 crews started the event, and after a great see-saw battle between internationals Andrew Cowan and Brian Culcheth (both in Cooper S’s) and locals Barry Ferguson, Stewart McLeod, Colin Bond and Evan Green, Ferguson emerged the winner. A controversial ‘horror section’ on the last night on the way back to Sydney put Evan Green and Stewart McLeod into the minor outright places. Mechanical problems forced the retirement of most of the internationals, including Edgar Hermann, a recent East Africa Safari winner, and co-winner of the 1970 Ampol Round Australia Trial conducted a few months earlier.

It was the second time that Barry Ferguson and David Johnson won the event, having also won it in 1967, but it was the third time for Johnson as he navigated for Andrew Cowan in 1969.

Whilst Ferguson emerged as the winner it was only over the closing 250 kilometres of the event that he assumed this position, previously not seeming to be any more than a good chance against Andrew Cowan and Colin Bond, and even Evan Green. But he had great ability to pace himself and contain his driving over the distance.

Ferguson/Johnson in the Holden Torana GTR

The demise of the internationals allowed the Australians to stream home behind Ferguson in second to sixth places respectively – Evan Green/Peter Brown (Cooper S), Stewart McLeod/Adrian Mortimer (Datsun 1600), Richard Harris/Nigel Collier (Mazda R100), Paul Older/Colin Alexander (Volvo 142S) and Bruce Wilkinson/Ian Inglis (Datsun 1600).  In fact, local crews fill the first twelve places, before the first international, Joginder Singh, the East African Safari winner.

After sharing the lead for the first three nights the international Cowan and Culcheth fell victim in their Cooper S cars to various dramas, and with them went their major rival for most of the distance, Colin Bond, in Torana XU1. Edgar Hermann started the rot when he stacked his Capella into a bank on the second night.

Final Placings

1 Barry Ferguson Dave Johnson Holden Torana GTR 160 pts
2 Evan Green Peter Brown Morris Cooper S 184
3 Stewart McLeod Adrian Mortimer Datsun 1600 186
4 Rex Harris Nigel Collier Mazda R100 206
5 Paul Older Colin Alexander Volvo 142S 234
6 Bruce Wilkinson Ian Ingliss Datsun 1600 243
7 Barry Lloyd Andy Browne Mitsubishi Colt 1100 SSS 251
8 Colin Bond George Shepheard Holden Torana XU1 255
9 Rex Lunn John Hall Ford Capri 311
10 Ossie Jackson Adrian van Loon Volvo 122S 351

Group 1 Class Placings

A Up to 1000 cc Mal Horsley Rod Horsley Honda
B 1001 to 1300 cc Barry Lloyd Albert Browne Mitsubishi Colt
C 1301 to 1600 cc Stewart McLeod Adrian Mortimer Datsun 1600
D 1601 to 2000 cc Richard Harris Nigel Collier Mazda R100
E 2001 to 3000 cc K. Gardner M. Madden Holden HR
F Over 3000 cc Murray Finlay Arthur Davis Holden Monaro 186

Group 2 Class Placings

G Up to 1300 cc Arthur Grimshaw Dennis Russell Hillman Imp
H 1301 to 1600 cc T. Constantinides Robert Lumby Mazda 1200
I 1301 to 1600 cc Bruce Wilkinson Ian Inglis Datsun 1600
J 1601 to 2000 cc Paul Older Colin Alexander Volvo 142S
K 2001 to 3000 cc Colin Bond George Shepheard Holden Torana XU1
L Over 3000 cc Bruce Hodgson Brian Waldron Ford Falcon

Group 5 Class Placings

P Up to 1600 cc Evan Green Peter Brown Morris Cooper S
R Over 1600 cc Barry Ferguson David Johnson Holden Torana

Manufacturers Award:  Mazda
Ladies Award:   Heather Brock/Jenny Cash - Holden Torana

VEHICLE ELIGIBILITY

Vehicle eligibility was based on FIA Groups 1 (Series Production Touring Cars – 5000 units produced a year), Group 2 (Special Touring – 1000 units produced a year) and Group 5. The Group 2 designation was now applied by the FIA to production based Touring Cars, and characterized as a mixture of the old 60's Group 2 and Group 5 rules (the old Group 5 ended at the end of 1969). 1000 cars still had to be produced, but these could be modified quite freely compared to the previous Group 2 regulations.  A new Group 5 (25 units manufactured in a year) was introduced to test prototypes.

EVENT DETAILS/ ORGANISING TEAM

Event Details

78 starters

Organising Team

Director: Allan Lawson

Secretary

  • John Arter

Organising Committee:

  • Monty Love
  • John Whitton

Port Macquarie Headquarters

  • Port Macquarie – ‘Travelodge’ Motel

Sponsor

  • Westfield Shopping Centre
ENTRIES

Many new model cars made their first appearance in the Southern Cross Rally this year.

Not least was the Holden Torana XU1 of the newly formed Holden Dealer Team (‘HDT’), led by Harry Firth, for Colin Bond, with George Shepheard navigating. A Holden Torana GTR was crewed by Barry Ferguson (to date five times NSW Rally Champion) and Dave Johnson, and John Keran/John Bryson were entered in a Holden Monaro GTS.

Rotary-engines were new and a Mazda Capella, which went on sale to the public just prior to the event, was crewed by Kenyan Edgar Herrmann (co-winner of the 1970 Ampol Round Australia Trial conducted earlier in the year), with Brian Hope. Also in a rotary machine was Joginder Singh (Mazda R100), with Steve Halloran. Richard Harris/Nigel Collier rallied another R100.  This group formed the Amoco Rally Team and took out the Manufacturer’s Award.

East African Safari winner Joginder Singh in the Mazda R100 – see highlights

Following a clean sweep of the Victorian Rally Championship and victory in all but one event of the Australian Rally Championship, were the Kay’s Team of Renault Gordinis, driven by Bob Watson/Jim McAuliffe, Mal McPherson/Robin Sharpley and Bruce Collier/Lindsay Adcock. Also in a Kay Team Renault 16TS was Lynne Keeffe, with Vix Hollowell. Lynne had won the ladies team prize in the first four events.

Andrew Cowan/Bob Forsyth

British Leyland Corporation continue its attack on the event with Morris Cooper S cars for Scotsman Andrew Cowan with Bob Forsyth, the UK’s Brian Culcheth, with Roger Bonhomme, and Evan Green/Peter Brown; plus an Austin 1800 (1969 Southern Cross Rally winning car) for John Taylor/Graham West.  A Morris 1500 was prepared for former NSW Champion Doug Chivas/Roy Denny, with a five-speed gearbox which Green drove in that year’s Papuan Safari. The Southern Cross Rally, and the Rally of the Hills a few weeks later, were the last two events contested by works Mini Coopers – they were now considered to be no longer a serious contender for wining important rallies.

Mitsubishi entered Colt 1100 SSS cars for Bob Riley/Barry Field, Barry Lloyd/Albert Browne and David Hansen/David Sandeman (resulting first and second in class).

Other entries included John Taylor/Graham West (Austin 1800), Peter Houghton/Mick Neilsen (Peugeot 404), Bruce Hodgson/Brian Waldron (ex-Ampol Trial Ford Falcon GS), Max Winkless/Peter Meyer (Volvo 142S), Ken Tubman/Lindsay McLeod (Triumph 2.5pi), Stewart McLeod/Adrian Mortimer (Datsun 1600), Bob Holden/John Dawson-Damer (Ford Escort), and future Southern Cross International Rally Director, Dan White, with wife Rosemary, in a Holden HR!

THE EVENT

Day 1 – Wednesday 7 October

  • Division 1: Sydney to Gloucester
  • Division 2: Gloucester to Port Macquarie

Principal stage A lengths (km):

38, 14, 12, 25, 33, 29

Day 2 – Thursday 8 October

  • Division 3: Port Macquarie to Grafton
  • Division 4: Grafton to Port Macquarie

Principal stage A lengths (km):

63, 11, 14, 43, 8, 15, 45

Day 3 – Friday 9 October

  • Division 5: Port Macquarie to Tamworth
  • Division 6: Tamworth to Port Macquarie

Principal stage A lengths (km):

47, 45, 27, 22, 38

Day 4 – Saturday 10 October

  • Division 7: Port Macquarie to Gloucester
  • Division 8: Gloucester to Sydney

Principal stage A lengths (km):

32, 11, 40, 196

Total event distance: 3600 kilometres

Day 1 – Sydney to Port Macquarie

The event started at midday from The Domain in central Sydney and passed through Windsor to the Wisemans Ferry on its way to Newcastle (by which time it was dark), Taree and Port Macquarie. From Newcastle onwards, it soon became very obvious that dust was going to be a problem.

On an early stage the Bruce Hodgson/Brian Waldron’s ex- Ampol Trial Ford Falcon GS broke a stub axle and replaced it from a local famer’s ‘spare parts bin’, whilst Ken Tubman’s Triumph 2.5 decided that the Ampol Trial, and a couple of days racing at Bathurst the previous weekend, was enough and the gearbox gave in.

Then a little later Max Winkless missed a corner in the dust and speared well off the road and he was thankful for the Volvo’s built in roll over bars, and safety harnesses fitted to the car; Brian Lidbury’s Colt 1100SS suffered from electrical issues; and Sue Ransom/Sandra Vine put the Renault 16TS hard up against a tree and it lost a mudguard.

New Zealanders Neil Johns/Murray Thompson had water drown the electrics in the Rover 2000 and this was the start of a number of minor problems that made the event difficult for the crew.

The front runners were losing little time (that is, not exceeding the times allowed, or only by a minute or two) and good efforts were also being put in by Peter Lang (Datsun 1600), Peter Houghton (Peugeot 404), Stewart McLeod (Datsun 1600), Peter Janson (Renault Gordini) and Bruce Collier (Gordini)

Full results after night one are not available but Culcheth lost 8 points, Bond 9, Cowan 12, with Herrmann and Taylor equal on 13 and Ferguson on 14. Others who put in a good performance were Rex Lund (Ford Capri V6), Charlie Lund (Mazda R100), Barry Lloyd (Colt 1100SS) and Graham Thompson (Mazda R100).

Day 2: Port Macquarie - Dorrigo - Grafton – Coffs Harbour – Port Macquarie

Getting to Dorrigo, on the northern New South Wales Tablelands was hard work, with a few special sections along tracks that were like driving down a tunnel, with branches and grass brushing the roof and the sides of the cars at the same time.

On Neaves Road, some 30km northwest of Dorrigo, there was a tight bend, with a rock-face on one side and a drop on the other. Taylor spun and came within centimetres of crashing into the rock-face and his delay sorting himself

out let Bond into the dust-free front position. Herrmann, chasing Culcheth, came upon the bend in dust, hit almost head-on and lost the Cibie lights, a right side front guard and bent the suspension but he made to the service area at Dorrigo. Watson arrived a little later, hit harder and stayed longer – thus exited two cars from the leader-board.

Northwest of Coffs Harbour a special section contained some very, very steep descents and tight turns – some so tight it was necessary to reverse to negotiate them and the field was spreading out. 11 crews had had enough rallying by this time and started to return to Port Macquarie.

After a mealbreak at Grafton the course headed back south. One section contained a creek crossing which required cars to be in first gear for the exit, a host of turns and a tight time allowed so tight that the best was Ferguson’s 8 points loss, followed by Cowan, Riley and many others on 9.

Major points losers were Herrmann, Watson, Cheeseman (VW), Thompson (Rover) and Hodgson. Cheeseman tried to pass another car in the dust on the run to Dorrigo and the VW went too close to the edge and over it went – plunging some 25 metres down – but there was surprisingly little damage to the car and none to the crew. But it was along walk for help with a winch!

Cowan (23 points) was best on the night followed by Bond (28), Culcheth (29), Ferguson (31), Green (33), Harris (36), Bob Riley (39) and Ossie Jackson/Adrian van Loon in their Ford Escort TC on 41.

Results at end of night two:

1 Andrew Cowan Bob Forsyth Morris Cooper S 35
=2 Colin Bond George Shepheard Holden Torana XU1 37
=2 Brian Culcheth Roger Bonhomme Morris Cooper S 37
4 Barry Ferguson Dave Johnson Holden Torana GTR 45
5 Evan Green Peter Brown Morris Cooper S 49
6 Richard Harris Nigel Collier Mazda R100 56
7 Graham Elliott Wayne Gregson Volkswagen 1500 63
8 Arthur Jackson Bob Adams Ford Escort TC 65
9 Bob Riley Barry Field Mitsubishi Colt 1100 SSS 70
10 Barry Lloyd Albert Browne Mitsubishi Colt 1100 SSS 73

Day 3: Port Macquarie – Tamworth – Port Macquarie

 After a day’s rest the crews had a one hour service period before starting on Day Three. Harry Firth pounced on Bond’s Torana and fitted new brakes and tyres and almost a new front end.

From Port Macquarie the field headed west to Wauchope and Cowan missed booking into a passage control, although the route instructions directed the crews to its location. However, the official in charge saw the car pass through and noted it on the paperwork; the Stewards subsequently decided to penalise only for an incomplete route card, for which there was a penalty of 10 points instead of the 25 for missing a passage control.

On this third night Ferguson put in a great effort to lose 16 points, followed by Bond with 18, Green and McLeod 21, Cowan 24 (plus a 10 point penalty to be 34). Without the 10 point penalty Cowan would have held a six point lead over Bond.

As the crews settled in for the day’s rest Harry Firth was confident his team could hold their lead (1st and 3rd) whilst BMC Leader Gus Staunton was equally confident that the Minis (2nd and 4th), with only 15 points between first and fourth, could out-handle the Toranas on the final night.

For the night’s run Bond dropped 18 points, and took the lead, Cowan 20 and fell back to second, then Ferguson, Green and Harris lost 21, Jackson 28 and Elliott 37. Culcheth, equal second after Day Two, fell out of the top ten, as did Riley, allowing Older and Houghton in. Culcheth demise was a crash in his Mini Cooper.

Richard Harris/Nigel Collier, in their Mazda R100, stayed in the top ten after the first night

Brian Culchuth examines the damge to the Cooper S

Results at end of night three:

1 Colin Bond George Shepheard Holden Torana XU1 55
2 Andrew Cowan Bob Forsyth Morris Cooper S 59
3 Barry Ferguson Dave Johnson Holden Torana GTR 66
4 Evan Green Peter Brown Morris Cooper S 70
=5 Richard Harris Nigel Collier Mazda R100 87
=5 Paul Older Colin Alexander Volvo 142S 87
7 John Taylor Graham West Austin 1800 95
8 Graham Elliott Wayne Gregson Volkswagen 1500 100
9 Peter Houghton Mick Nielsen Peugeot 404 101
10 Arthur Jackson Bob Adams Ford Escort TC 103

Day 4: Port Macquarie – Gloucester - Sydney

60 plus cars started the last night.

There were 1100 kilometres to go, of which approximately 650 were competitive, and one was about 200 long, and had been advertised as the roughest, toughest stage ever seen in any rally. So the pattern was set for the Torana cars to hold their lead and the Minis to go for broke.

The Minis slowly gained on the Toranas and Cowan eventually took the lead on the road and 10 minutes ahead of Ferguson, as Bond had ripped the exhaust of his Torana and lost the speedometer drive, also allowing Green to pass. The Cowan Mini approached a control but didn’t slow down at the flying finish point - the brakes had gone – and Cowan flung the Mini sideways to take a corner at the control but found the left front wheel banging on some twisted suspension after hitting a bank. Culcheth soon arrived and, being out of the running, allowed his Mini to be cannibalised but time was the enemy and Cowan lost an hour.

Then came the long and tough stage near Nundle with, in parts, tracks marked as suitable for four wheel drive vehicles only. 16 crews tackled the stage, the rest bypassed and took penalties accordingly. Those who tackled it managed to scramble over the gutters and down the rutted mountainside which dropped 1200 metres in 10 kilometres. Points lost show how tough it was – McLeod 52, Bruce Wilkinson 58, Richard Harris 72, Ferguson 87.

One controversy from this stage stayed within the sport for many years. Evan Green came across Barry Ferguson’s Torana bogged sideways on the road. Green, and navigator Peter Brown, helped the Torana’s crew on its way then restarted the Copper S only to immediately get bogged themselves, as Ferguson sailed away into the distance. Ferguson couldn’t see rearwards as the back window of the Torana was covered in mud, and didn’t think that the Mini would be delayed.

Then it was a long transport to the finish in Sydney, at Hornsby’s Westfield Shopping Centre.

So, on this last night, six of the top ten at the end of the third night dropped out – Cowan, Taylor, Elliott, Houghton and Arthur Jackson to let in McLeod, Wilkinson, Lloyd, Lunn and Arthur’s father Ossie. Ferguson lost 94 points, followed by Green with 114, then Harris 119 and Older 147. Bond dropped 200 points to fall from 1st outright to 8th outright at the finish.

The Final Ten – Jackson out and Jackson In! Arthur Jackson/Bob Adams in the Ford Escort dropped out of the top ten on the last night but Dad Ossie, with Adrian van Loon took his Volvo 122S into his 10th place.

Final results in Sydney:

1 Barry Ferguson Dave Johnson Holden Torana GTR 160
2 Evan Green Peter Brown Morris Cooper S 184
3 Stewart McLeod Adrian Mortimer Datsun 1600 186
4 Richard Harris Nigel Collier Mazda R100 206
5 Paul Older Colin Alexander Volvo 142S 234
6 Bruce Wilkinson Ian Ingliss Datsun 1600 243
7 Barry Lloyd Andy Browne Mitsubishi Colt 1100 SS 251
8 Colin Bond George Shepheard Holden Torana XU1 255
9 Rex Lunn John Hall Ford Capri 311
10 Ossie Jackson Adrian van Loon Volvo 122S 351

Barry Ferguson/Dave Johnson on their winning way in the Holden Torana GTR

EVENT SIDELINES

Joginder Singh

The first Sikh driver ever to win an international rally, and also the first man to win the Safari Rally three times, he was known as the ‘Flying Sikh’ for his exploits behind the wheel. Although Ugandan rival Shekhar Mehta had more outright victories in the event (4), Singh's record of 19 finishes in 22 attempts is an unprecedented feat of consistency in what has been long regarded as the world's toughest rally, where the attrition rate often exceeded 90%. Allan Lawson used the same Mazda R100 driven in the event to set the event’s course and also used it in Queensland rallies.

  • The word had spread that Lynne Keeffe (Jarman), after winning her class four years in a row in the event, had a mortgage on the event so a number of ladies teams entered to wrest the crown from her. These included Sue Ransom/Sandra Hines/Hazel Phillips (Renault 16TS which Sue used in the 1970 Ampol Trial), Ann Ross/Sandra van Loon (Volvo 122S), Sue Southwell/Dianne Flint (Fiat 128) and Heather Brock/Jenny Cash in a Holden Torana GTR). They all turned on a most spirited battle and eventually the Brock/Cash crew came out in front.
  • A ‘modern’ approach to rallies for this year’s event was a special 24-hours a day progress points telephone service being introduced. Based at the Westfield Plaza at Sydney’s Hornsby was a team of people takings cores by telephone from the results centre in Port Macquarie, which were transcribed onto a large scoreboard. People could call in on a special ‘hotline’ (a term not then invented!!) to get information.
  • A further ‘modern’ innovation was the issuing to crews of progress scoresheets, by courtesy of Roneo-Vickers (portable photostat machines were just coming onto the market), at the start of each division, very handy for crews to see how they stacked up against the opposition stage by stage!
  • The major controversy of the event was Cowan/Forsyth ‘missing’ a passage control in Wauchope just after the start of the third night. The instructions directed crews to the route check area but Cowan (with some others) drove pass and didn’t stop to have his road card marked (there were many people spectating at the refuel point). However, the official has seen them all pass and noted this fact on his control card; so the Stewards later determined to rescind the penalty for a missed control and apply one for an incomplete road card, for which a 10 point penalty was applied (instead of 25 points). At the time the incident created a high degree of angst but in the end, with Cowan dropping out, it didn’t matter – other than to get the situation sorted out in regulations for another year.
  • Peter Brown, navigating for Evan Green in Mini Cooper S, vividly recalls the very first competitive stage on the rally with Evan. “That was my very first experience in a full-on works rally car. I mean, I’d been with other club fellas who were quick or whatever, but to actually drop the clutch and take off in a works car, you suddenly realise that nothing stands in your way. You’re bouncing over rocks that you would otherwise have slowed down for and crawled over, and he’s just going straight at it, foot flat to the floor, and you think, wow, no wonder they get the times they do.”

This was almost a fairytale debut for Peter with the team, finishing second. Rain on the 100-mile section over the Barrington Tops National Park late in the rally saw many competitors fail to complete the event.

“Barry Ferguson and Dave Johnson won it, but only after we pushed their HDT Torana out of a bog”, Peter reveals. We got into the Barrington Tops and I think there were only 14 cars of the original starters that got through that final section. Ferguson left four points ahead of us, and about six minutes on the road ahead of us. When we got to him stuck in the bog, it made us the leaders by two minutes in the rally. We pulled up and I said, Evan, that’s Barry, we’re in front, you’ve got to go around him. He said, I can’t, there’s no room. With a huge drop-off on the left, it meant we had to get out and push him out, which we did. Then we jumped back in our car and got stuck in the same bog. I called out for them to come and help us, and the rules said that they should have lent assistance to us, but whether they didn’t realise or whatever, they took off, and that’s what cost us the Southern Cross Rally that year.”

Acknowledgement of above to ‘The BMC Experience, Issue 22’

PHOTOGRAPHS

Peter Janson/Mike Mitchell