Whilst based at Port Macquarie the basic format was to start each day/night (division) at 3pm and finish back at the town at 3am (times for first car). This meant a topsy-turvy world for all the participants, competitors, service crews, officials, spectators and indeed, the motel staff. Breakfast was in mid-afternoon and dinner in early morning!!
Logically, most sections were conducted at night, but each afternoon a couple were conducted in forests close to Wauchope, just west of Port Macquarie. The road book contained a full route chart, with both total and intermediate distances, and tulip diagrams.
The late time applied for each division and usually was 150 minutes.
The course contained many ‘Possible Route Passage Controls’ (PRPC) and often these were manned so it was a brave crew who didn’t go the full course. In 1976 there were 98 PRPC. Finding officials to man them wasn’t a problem in the hey-day of the event as there were so many spectators only too pleased to have a viewing area to themselves.
Gates and water crossings were a fairly constant hazard in the competitive sections. The famous Gordonvale Crossing on the Bellingen River however, was in a touring section and was extremely popular with spectators, if not with competitors! A local farmer made good money towing the cars out of the water.
Unfortunately, the crossing (which wasn’t used that much by locals) had to be dropped from the event after 1975 due to yahoos dropping large rocks into the river, impeding the progress of the rally cars.
Servicing and refuelling (‘splash and dash’) could be carried out on any transport section that was accessible to service crews. Famously, one year on the 240km The Horseshoe section, cars were refuelled within the section in the competitors’ own time!
Cars were placed in parc ferme on arrival at Port Macquarie and released ten/fifteen minutes before the crew was due to start the next division. Midway through the event a car could be removed for one hour within a specified period (eg: 0800 to 1300) for servicing. From 1978 a two hours servicing period was permitted.
Clubs along the mid-north coast of New South Wales assisted with the planning and conduct of the event. In the main these clubs were:
- Newcastle – MG Car Club of Newcastle; Westlakes Automobile Club
- Taree – Central North Coast Sporting Car Club
- Wauchope – Hastings Valley Sporting Car Club
- Coffs Harbour – Coffs Harbour and District Car Club
- Grafton – Grafton Sporting Car Club
- Armidale – New England Sporting Car Club
There was no club in those days at Port Macquarie.
With Total Oil Australia’s high profile sponsorship (1973 to 1977), the finishing crews drove from Port Macquarie back to Sydney on the Monday morning (an early start after a late Sunday night!) and participated in a lunchtime group parade led by the Police through Sydney streets to finish at Hyde Park – with the winner inevitably ending up in the pond!!