By Tom Snooks – Competitor 1968, Event General Manager 1973-1977; Secretary of Australian Sporting Car Club 1972-1978
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), Ampol Trials of 1956, 1957, 1958 and 1964, but NOT the 1970 event, this being conducted by the Australian Racing Drivers Club (ARDC).
The event was conducted in early October each year, 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), to allow international drivers who competed at Bathurst in Morris Cooper S cars under the BMC banner – Paddy Hopkirk (dnf) and Rauno Aaltonen (who won the race), to also take part in the newly introduced Southern Cross International Rally, conducted between Sydney and Melbourne and back to Sydney.
In 1967 the overseas visitors who competed at Bathurst also included Tony Fall (finished 5th), Timo Makinen (7th) and, again, Hopkirk (8th), and they were entered in the Southern Cross Rally. Then in 1989 Makinen and Hopkirk competed in the Southern Cross Rally, but not the Bathurst (now called the Hardie Ferodo 500).
As these drivers were also rally drivers it seemed natural to attract them to participate in an Australian Rally, which had be set up under FIA regulations for them to compete – and thus was born international rallying in Australia, with FIA homologated cars.
The 1966 and 1968 events ran from Sydney to Melbourne and back to Sydney, whilst the 1967 course was Sydney-Bairnsdale-Sydney. In 1969 there was a moratorium on the conduct of rallies using shire roads in New South Wales whilst an agreement was drawn up between the shires and CAMS for the conduct of rallies, and the event was based at Surfers Paradise, although it did use some roads in northern New South Wales.
In 1970, the rally started and finished in Sydney, but was based at Port Macquarie. Only forestry roads were used. This became for the format for future Southern Cross Rallies, with the last couple finishing in Port Macquarie.