Stories

- July 29th, 2011 - By Peter Flanagan

London to Sydney Car Rally Charter 1977 by Stuart Darbyshire

Hi Peter, I have written a story about my charter flight for Fiat on the Australian leg of the Rally. I was the pilot involved in the rescue of Christine Dacremont.
I also have some photos you might like. (SEE PHOTOGRAPHS IN CAR 66 PHOTO GALLERY)

Stuart Darbyshire

When the charter request came in I was sub contracting for Trans West Air Charter and based at Jandakot Airport in Perth WA. The aircraft I operated was VH-CFE a Piper PA 31 Navajo twin engine 8 seater. Trans West offered me the job of flying for Fiat on the Australian section of the Rally.

At the time, I was 23 years old, had only been operating for about nine months and didn’t have much outback flying experience but Trans West also had a Cessna 421 going on the Rally with a more experienced pilot flying for the Mercedes Team and he was going to give me some help. As it happened, the other aircraft was recalled from Alice Springs back to Perth so I was on my own from there.
The Fiat team arranged for a CB radio to be fitted to the aircraft so we could communicate with the rally cars as well as the back up vehicles. They had an eight ton truck full of spares and several Land Cruisers.

About two days before the rally was due to leave Perth the team asked me to come into their hotel to discuss their plans. They asked me about the terrain and road conditions and I just “winged it” so they didn’t know I hadn’t been out there myself.

Gigi Farinetti ( Fiat’s Rally Director not sure of the spelling ) would point to some of the cattle stations on the map and ask if they could get Fiat parts there or fuel. Fuel maybe but they would have to bring everything else. I was amazed to see that their maps were Visual Aeronautical Charts which were provided by the organizers. I guess road maps were not available.

The two French girls, Christine Dacremont and Yveline Vanoni had apparently decided not to fit a “Roo bar” to their vehicle as it upset the steering. I thought this was a mistake but they were adamant.

Naturally, on the first night they hit a kangaroo which damaged the front of their car. We caught up with them in Laverton WA and some repairs were carried out there.
From there the rally headed north towards Cosmo Newbury.
We gave the Italian crew a head start and then took off after them as Jack Lesage ( the photographer ) wanted to get some shots of them on the road. We saw a white car amid lots of dust so I did some low fly bys for the photos. I found out many years later that it was the wrong car !!!. In an incredible co-incidence I had a passenger sitting next to me on a charter when the conversation turned to the Rally which he drove in. He said there was a low flying aircraft which scared the crap out of him and his co driver just north of Laverton. They were privateers driving a Holden ( I think ). Imagine his amazement when I confessed that it was me!!!

Everything went pretty well until after we turned north from Alice Springs. We flew up to Wave Hill station and landed there hoping to catch up with the three cars but there was no sign. We then flew south and landed at Hooker Creek NT where two of our cars came through. They were the French crew of Robert Neyret and Marianne Hoepfner and the Italian crew of Carlo Baghetta and Carlotti ( I don’t know why only one name). We waited for Christine and Yveline until it was almost dark but we had to go so took off south for Alice Springs. Just as we reached our cruising height of 10,000 feet we had a call on the CB radio from the girls saying they had an accident and they needed help. Apparently they were having more trouble with the radiator overheating and had turned back to meet up with the back up vehicle.

Unfortunately they had a head on collision with the very last Rally car on the road which was the Citroen team of Andre Stuckelberger and Bernard Cheneviere.
I radioed Flight Service for the Royal Flying Doctor Service ( RFDS ) aircraft to come and to their aid but was told that the airstrip nearby at Kalkgurung NT had no runway lights so the RFDS wouldn’t land there at night. I immediately turned our aircraft around and asked Flight Service to arrange fuel for me at Katherine NT as I intended to fly to Kalkgurung at first light and pick them up.

On the way to Katherine Gigi told me there were some English speaking voices on the CB radio and handed the microphone to me. It was a Police officer who told me that one of the girls was dying and needed immediate help.
I asked him to take her to Wave Hill station as it had a radio beacon and possibly had runway lighting. The officer said he considered that the road was too rough and the journey would certainly kill her.

I then asked him to go to the Kalkgurung strip and point his headlights into wind and I would see what I could do when we got there. By now it was pitch black and with complete cloud cover so I had no visibility with the ground. On the way there I told the guys on board what the situation was re the lack of runway lighting. I also had no strip diagram or elevation so I didn’t know how high we were above the ground. Things were a lot more primitive in those days and there was no central register of outback airstrips. Charter pilots would quite often have very little information about the strip we were going to and we would get information over the phone or figure it out when we got there !!!!

I took a vote between us because I knew very well that a landing without lights was very dangerous but I wanted to give it a try. Gigi and Jack were all for it but the young mechanic sitting next to me was not at all keen. He was outvoted 3 to 1. I must admit I felt for him. He thought he was going to die.

When we arrived overhead I saw some lights on the ground which looked like a settlement or mining camp. There was a solitary pair of headlights a bit further on which I guessed must be the Police vehicle. I flew a timed circuit over the top and made an approach to land. Although the aircraft has a landing light all you get is a pool of light running over the ground at 160 kph. You can see very little. I thought we were too high so I did a go around and made another attempt. Of course as soon as I pulled the nose up to flare for landing the landing light became useless as it is pointing up into the air. Amazingly it was one of the best night landings I ever did.

The Almighty saved us that night !!!

I taxied over to where all the lights were and saw it was a group of cars. When I got out a woman came up to me and asked what did they do wrong ? I said “nothing you did as I asked”. She said “well we all have our headlights pointed down the main airstrip…….you landed on the short one !!!” From the air there was no way I could have seen that. They had no idea how to arrange vehicles along the airstrip.

I pulled some of the seats out and a motorbike that Gigi had insisted that we carry from Perth and tied down the stretcher that Christine was on and put her fellow driver Yveline, ( who was very badly bruised all over ) as well as Gigi and Jack in with us. Needless to say the mechanic wasn’t coming !!!

The Police officer then asked where I was going to take them and I said to Alice Springs. He said no the best hospital is in Darwin, so that’s where I replanned to. I didn’t have enough fuel to get there so went via Katherine hoping the refueller was still there as we were very late having gone via Kalkgurung instead of straight there as originally planned. Unfortunately the HF radio that night had so much static that I could not get through to Flight Service so they didn’t know where we were. I tried every frequency I could think of but we just couldn’t make contact. We arrived at Katherine and the airport lights were on !!! Thank God.

The refueller said he had to have his call out fee before giving us fuel. I told him we were on a Mercy Flight but he insisted so I threw $20.00 at him and got the fuel. I asked him to phone Flight Service and tell them where we were and that we were going to Darwin but I don’t think he did. On the way the conditions were very rough and I was very concerned the turbulence might kill Christine. But she was obviously very tough and survived.

Once we got within VHF radio range of Darwin Flight Service I told them what was happening and arranged an ambulance for our arrival. We got in around midnight.
As we were taxying in the Tower asked me to phone the SOC ( Senior Officer in Charge ).

I thought “ Oh God my career is over “. So after we got the girls away to hospital I rang him and he asked me what the lights were like at Kalkgurung. I said “they could stand some improvement “ and luckily for me he left it at that.
Gigi and Jack went to the hospital and I for some very needed rest. I had been going since 7.00am that morning. Christine, as I recall, had a broken collarbone, arm, ribs and pelvis as well as internal injuries. The doctors said she would not have survived the night.
I am told she was in traction for six weeks and stayed in Darwin hospital for three months.

To this day I still don’t know if I did the right thing because I risked four lives to save one.

The following morning, at the hotel, a local news crew asked us if we had been involved in the rescue but I had sworn Gigi and Jack to secrecy as I was very concerned I could lose my pilot’s licence.

Of course, while we were heading north the rally was heading south and Gigi was desperate to catch up with it. I had made an arrangement with the Police the previous night that I would come back and pick up my seats and the two Citroen drivers who had been involved in the accident. We arrived over the top and I saw a small settlement which I proceed to “beat up”. ( Fly low over the top ). The aircraft is very noisy and you would have to be dead not to hear it. We landed and I put the seats back in but no sign of the cops. Gigi wanted to use the motorbike to go look for them but there were three roads into the airstrip and I didn’t know which one to use so I made him stay. In the end he insisted and off he went. Five minutes later the cops came in on another road so I asked them to chase after him and “where does the road go anyway”. “Nowhere” was the reply.

I made Gigi wait until the motor was cool before I loaded it back on and we took off. The Citroen drivers were extremely pleased to leave. I don’t think they liked the native community much. I never saw the mechanic again !!!
God knows what happened to him.

We finally caught up with our cars that night just north of the Adelaide SA hills. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful with us doing the radio relays and crew changes for the back up drivers. I met up with my dad, briefly, at Essendon Airport Vic along the way.

Everything said on the CB radio was in French or Italian so I didn’t know what was going on and had to redo the flight plan many times. It sure sharpened my flight planning skills !!!

Fiat’s directors were so pleased with how it all went that they flew out from Italy for the finish and took me to a slap up meal in Sydney as well as the Opera House for the awards.

I took a couple of days off and flew back to Perth via one of the cattle stations to drop off one of the back up crew. They wouldn’t let me keep the motor bike. Bugger !!!

Thanks to your website I was able to get Christine’s name from one of the newspaper clippings so I wondered if she had a Facebook page. Sure enough she does so I sent her a message from 34 years ago!!! She very graciously responded and we are now Facebook friends. She still drives Rally cars !!!

I found the crew names in your results pages which I assume are correct.” Gigi” I think is his nickname. I don’t know his real name.

I was thrilled to bits to find your website after all these years. I occasionally searched in the newspaper archives because I was told in Sydney that the story was in the papers but I never found them.

Thankyou for giving me the opportunity to tell my story.

Stuart Darbyshire
Chief Pilot Regent Air Services Ret.

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- May 8th, 2011 - By Peter Flanagan

John Crawford, who was with Hans Tholstrup in Car 7 the Mini Moke, provided the following:

I stepped off a Singapore Airlines 707 in Copenhagen at 7:40am on July 29, 1977 after flying from Sydney, with refuelling stops in Singapore, Athens and Amsterdam, to be met by my friend and co-pilot Hans Tholstrup. He dropped me off at the BP building, and said: “The Moke’s in the basement car park, I’ll see you at my Uncle’s place. Here’s the address.”

Never mind I had just flown non-stop for 28 hours, I guess he figured if I couldn’t find his uncle’s chateau just outside the city, then I would be pretty hopeless navigating from London to Sydney!

The first photo in the gallery on my Blog confirms I was able to follow his directions, in the environs of a city I had never been to before. The rest is history. We were the seventh car away from London’s Covent Garden, and we were classified the 35th finisher at the Sydney Opera House, and, coming home second in class we won AUD$250! That’s right, $250!

Looking back, I think I would gladly have paid that, and more, for the experience of driving 30,000km through 30 countries in 30 days. The 1977 Singapore Airlines London to Sydney Car Rally was, and remains, the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done, and I thank my wife of 45 years for releasing me from family responsibilities to drive halfway across the world with one of the most amazing people it has been my pleasure to know.

Hans Tholstrup’s adventures are well known, as are his achievements. However, I am privy to his skills, talents, intuition and tenacity. In addition I have witnessed his resourcefulness, intelligence, canny understanding of human nature, and quite frankly, his bravery and chutzpah. I thank my lucky stars I met him, competed with him and remain his friend – he is a living legend!

The colour slides I still have are the best living testament of the adventure, but they can never record the emotions, the tension, the fear and wonder of facing the unknown, and the sheer relief of arriving at the Sydney Opera House.

Many people have said to me that we must have been crazy to compete in a Mini Moke. Of course it was unusual, but Hans’ preparations were so thorough I never doubted for a minute we would make it. And, along the way I photographed some great memories which will live with me forever.

There was considerable comfort that our support vehicle, the 5 tonne Terrier truck was also entered as a competitor. The truck carried our luggage, tools, spare parts, supplies and copious quantities of our staple diet – cellophane bags of toasted muesli flakes and Coca Cola!

As Hans had warned us all about eating food prepared out of our sight, and drinking dodgy water, we supplemented the muesli and Coke with naturally-packaged foods like bananas, hard boiled eggs, chocolate bars and Lebanese bread.

I lost a lot of weight, but survived the diet, albeit with an addiction to Coca Cola which took me six months to shake!

One of the greatest elements of the whole adventure was the fabulous, and different personalities we met along the way. Hans and I were already good friends with the Rally promoter, Wylton Dickson and his cohorts Ken Tubman and Jim Gavin, but in every country we met amazing people, and struck up terrific friendships with officials and fellow competitors. The camaraderie which existed among the competitors was warm, helpful, co-operative and generous. Despite the intense competition at the head of the field, every one of the teams was willing to help another.

Once the Rally left Athens, everything changed. We drove north east out of Ankara to a remote part of Turkey where the locals stood, gobsmacked, by the side of the road as the modern rally cars flew past. Quite a contrast to mud huts and donkey-drawn carts.

We stopped in the village of Tatvan to repair a bracket on our radiator, and needed welding equipment. No problem. We were led to the local service station, café, hairdresser and public toilet (a hole in open ground at the back of the main building), where the owner provided modern welding gear, and we were on our way after thick Turkish coffee, cakes and a lot of back-slapping.

All through Iran, our car was shadowed by a team of SAVAK agents from the Shah’s secret police force. In Afghanistan in 1977 the overland highway from Herat to Kandahar, Kabul and the Khyber Pass, was the country’s only continuosly-paved road. The Afghan government was so concerned the rally field would be attacked by tribal bandits it had stationed a policeman or an army soldier every kilometre along the way, for 2000 kilometres! And swept the field with helicopters.

In India we stopped to refill our water bottles, and were led to a spring where the local Hindu holy man sold us natural spring water for 20c a bottle. We refilled six bottles, and the profit endowed him with considerable riches!

Also in India, between Pune (Poonah) and Bangalore we stopped to make repairs and within minutes were surrounded by 27 ‘helpers’ who all insisted they do the work. Hans stood on the side of the Moke and shouted at them to step back, threatening to fire shots in the air! We didn’t have a gun, but that moved everyone back at least 18 inches from the car!

In Chennai (Madras) we relaxed at the Connemara Hotel while the rally cars were shipped to Penang. On the last day room service stopped as the Indians came to grips with the death of Elvis Presley. On that day I succumbed to a hamburger by the pool, and caught an attack of the runs.

Aboard the Singapore Airlines flight from Chennai to Penang I shared the First Class toilet with my friend, and the eventual winner of the Rally, Andrew Cowan. As one would finish in the toilet, the other would take over. We solved our problem in Penang by following advice from Australian rally legend, Doug Stewart, who said when he got the ‘runs’ he took five anti-diarrhoea pills first up, then followed that four hours later with another five! I don’t think either Andrew or I used our bowels for a week after that treatment. It was very effective!

The Australian leg of the event was very tough. We had difficulty keeping up, because shipping delays meant the time had to be truncated to get from Perth to Sydney, and we were pretty much flat out every day just to stay in sight of the leaders. Our service crew had to drive west from our planned meeting point at Uluru to find us in the desert near The Olgas to repair a broken engine mount, but apart from that the Moke was trouble-free all the way to Sydney.

The most uncomfortable section of the Rally was the intense cold, as we drove over the Snowy Mountains in September. As the Moke had no insulation from the elements, and we had few warm clothes we were kept awake by our teeth chattering. In the final run from Queensland to the Rothbury Estate in the Hunter Valley (which was the official finish of the event) we endured wrong directions issued by the organisers, missed Controls which had been established on the wrong road, and as we motored slowly past Jacky Prive’s burning Range Rover, it reminded us how much we’d endured, and how lucky we were to have our road book stamped and signed at the final Control.

The Singapore Airlines London-to-Sydney Rally remains the world’s longest rally to this day, and of course could never be run over the same roads, given the turmoil in parts of the Middle East and Asia, but I for one am glad I was part of it.

Funny, I never did see any part of the $250 prize money. I think Hans must have shouted himself dinner and wine with one of his many girlfriends.

But, what a blast!

John Crawford©

This plus more pictures of the Moke are at my Blogspot address: www.drivingandlife.com

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Doug Francis here - December 19th, 2010 - By Peter Flanagan

Hi this is from Doug Francis Leyland terrier truck No 73 Yes, I could be interested in a reunion, would much prefer NOT Sydney, but Alice sounds good to me late June ish, only a suggestion tho’, the last one at Coogee was pretty good, please ignore any mistakes but I’m brand new to the computer & typing, Flash I am sorry to hear about Wally, I s’pose there are quite a few missing now I’ve gone 80 myself & still chugging along (still ride a motor bike regularly with a few old farts) so can’t complain also still have same wife of 56 years,, only ever had one argument & that’s still going, No, all is well with us. The rally was a fairly historic thing to me, I believe it was the first truck to have a go at a rally a long time before the Paris Dakar boys got involved, which sure is another kettle of fish. No doubt you are aware Barry Allen passed away many years ago, I was very good mates with Barry & had heaps of faith in his driving the old truck in pretty tight situations as you’d only know too well, & you never let that go lightly do you. That is why the idea of a reunion is a bloody good idea.
Doug Francis.

Hope you’re all well & have A MERRY XMAS

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Lee Chui San remembers - November 21st, 2010 - By Peter Flanagan

Hi there,

There are at least four people in Singapore who remember that event well. They are Vincent Wong, Teoh Tee Hoo and Ho An Seng, participants, and myself, Lee Chiu San, one of the officials who was on duty from the start in London to the finish in Sydney.

We all were participants in many other forms of motor sport in Singapore and around the region too.

I represented Batey Advertising, the agency of Singapore Airlines.

As the one member of the staff who was deep into motor sports I was shanghaied into the publicity team for the Rally.

I was at Rally Control in London, in Singapore, and in Melbourne and Sydney, and had access to all the reports.
I was also one of the official photographers at some of the controls.

To jog my memory while doing some research for a talk that I will be giving on this Rally to local motor sports enthusiasts tomorrow, I logged onto this website.

Sorry that I am rushed for time now, (and I am also involved in a major business project for the next couple of weeks, but if you want to share memories, (and a few press clippings) I am more than happy to do so.

Lee Chiu San

(to prove that this is a genuine offer to share information, you can check my name on Google to see that I have legitimate experience in motor sport)

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Stephen Gregory Service Crew Car 60 - November 21st, 2010 - By Peter Flanagan

I was a young technical officer at 3HA Hamilton when the cars came ashore at Perth on way to Sydney.
I knew Stephen Baird Wes’s mechanic from Stawell and when I found that Wes and Noel were pretty well financing the car and their travelling expenses I approached some of the advertisers at the radio station and was able to secure a large number of travel vouchers to stop at any Flag Inn, for a rest stop.
Two Way Radios were required and I obtained AWA units, which were fitted to the Corolla in Perth and to the Toyota Corona, which I acquired from Stephen Baird at Stawell Toyota for $4000.
Stephen agreed to support the crew for the Adelaide to Temora loop, and I went to Alice Springs loaded up with spares from Australian Motor Industries in Port Melbourne.
I had spare axles, a diff, brakes, alternator, starter motor, driving lights, front and rear shocks and struts as well as two four stud wheels and tyres and four jerry cans three fuel one of water.

We communicated at night on 2020 KHz RFDS channel and after they came up The Gun Barrel we met out near Giles and I shepherded car 60 back to Alice and stayed at the Flagg in on the layover date.

They did the Tanami loop and I went up to Katherine and then drove back down to Tenant Creek and out to Yuendumu to escort them back in to Alice, all in 48 hours and then we headed south to Port Augusta in 10-12 hours over the dirt, which started at Hungerford in those days and ended at Woomera.

That 24 hour day started with the Bon-Bon station with a broken axle housing in the Corolla which we repaired with steel droppers and Silicon using a petrol driven welder and then driving into Port Augusta and seeing a brand new Toyota Corolla in the window of the Toyota dealers MINUS its rear axle assembly which had been cannibalised to put into Nadler’s rally car. I laughed myself silly it was so funny;

Then after waiting for them to do the special section in Pitchie Ritchie pass in the Flinders ranges, I followed them down to Quorn but Wes became so concerned about my erratic driving, Noal came back and drove the service car while I had my first sleep in 24 hours.

I have some pictures on my website http://home.vicnet.net.au/~vk3six/CORONAGT/
Of the conditions in those days.

My website is all about the service car a 1974 Toyota Corona GT and you can find photos from the SAL Rally including the finish at the Sydney opera house where someone drove their 4WD up the steps. I have lots of slides of the rally if anyone wants copies.

As service crew of one I saw many dramas and had day-to-day contact with the rally crews and filed many stories like the ones above.
I carried a Studer recorder and the hardest thing was finding phone boxes to send in my daily reports to 2UE/3HA/Max Stahl and the Macquarie B/S.
And then catch up with the rally crew.

After Adelaide I had 24 hours to get to Temora NSW, so I went to my folks place and washed all my tee-shirts and had them spread out all over the car as I headed east to Tailem bend and to Hay where I was forced to rest in another Flagg Inn due to severe fatigue.
I made it to Temora having been passed by car 72 at a rapid speed, followed about ten minutes later by a red faced policeman in an old Holden Ute who was at the service point on the outskirts of Temora looking for the dusty old Porsche;
HIGHLIGHTS
- CAMS started setting speed (amphometer) traps in NSW and warned us that if the service crew got pinged for speeding the rally car would be disqualified;
- the night of DUST up on way to White Cliffs;
- The rally Finish, was it Dunkerton who drove up the steps in his FWD? (No it was Brian Chuchua in the Jeep Car 41 … FLASH)
- I also have photos of the grey test Mercedes 280E 5-speed twin cam that ran ahead of the pack and that amazing Mercedes mobile MOWOG service centre on wheels.
- Cowan who ploughed ahead 1 km into the spinifex and scrub on the North South Rd from Alice and had to be winched out;
- a photo of a Cessna aircraft on the road out in NSW booked by the local police for landing on a road to render service to one of the rally crews;
- a photo of the Subaru that hit the kangaroo, peeling back the roof that kicked and broke the Japanese navigators arm;
- Car 48 hit a kangaroo on navigator’s side big time;
- the truck that was car (?)73 which was an awesome Leyland Terrier with the stuffed monkey mascot;
- Letting some of the crews (Ellis and co) into the Flag inn in North Adelaide after the overnight run from Alice. The carpets were white? The boys were red with dust and the rest, as they say, is a funny story.

After Temora it was on to Wilcannia and then the rally car went to Quilpie (and ran out of fuel and had to get the QUILPIE cop out of bed) and I went along the border road/track to Cunnamulla and Toowoomba, we then went into Brisbane in tandem but were very late so waved at our Flag Inn as we went by.

Some much need repairs to both cars, swapped two of my Cibie Super Oscars onto the rally car, did some panel beating and then off over the mountains back down to Cunnamulla.

On the way a special section and two blow outs for the rally car, so in the service car (mindful of the speed traps) was sent on a 170 km dash to Cunnamulla, stopped at the tyre place and got two SP44’s repaired and had them waiting at the side of the road when the rally car rolled by a half an hour later.

I then had a quick shower whist the service station fitted me a new back windscreen which had been shattered when a kangaroo jumped onto the back of the rally car on the border road. Then it was off on a lap dash to catch up with the field.

The rest was pretty tame, down to Tamworth and then into the Hunter valley for a night/feast at the Pokolbin wineries and then the mad dash down the highway to the Sydney Opera house.

RALLY CAR
Car 60 (where are you?) Corolla Sprinter Coupe with 3KB and 5 speed T series gearbox discs and drums, ended up on the podium at the finish in Sydney and then on display at York motors right over the road from Cowans Black Merc, and to realise those privateers had WON Class A (engine size up to 1300cc) in a tiny Corolla Coupe with a 3KB engine.

SERVICE CAR
The Toyota Corona GT, was the car AMI never brought into Australia, it was every bit as quick as the GT Celica with 18RG twin cam, dual Mikuni Solex carbies, 145 BHP into a P51 gearbox and 4.11 F series LSD.
A fast touring car perfect as a support vehicle and loaded to the gunnels with car parts it still managed to make about 300k from a tank of super.
And I never crashed in the whole 5000 km I drove as service support.

Stephen Gregory

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Ken Murden Citroen Importer Australia - November 21st, 2010 - By Peter Flanagan

Trusting to an aging memory I tender the following which may be of
interest:
- early in 1977 Jim and I ordered 3 Citroen CX,s from the factory
which Jim and his team prepared to rally specs;
- we had a sponsorship with Total Oil and Grosvenor Hotel in
London amongst others;
- we utilised one of the rooms as our office for about 3 weeks
enabling us to meet with people and liaise with the rally
organiser Wylton Dickson;
- it was at this time that we were approached by Paddy Hopkirk and
Mike Taylor to join their car with our team and we agreed as
long as they took Bob Riley on board as a mechanic;
- we also undertook to service Andre Stucketberger’s Citroen as
long as it did not interfere with the servicing of our own cars.
As you probably know Stuckelberger’s car was written off in
Outback Australia in an accident where the car was involved in
a ‘head on’ with another rally car going in the wrong direction;
- Paddy Hopkirk invited all the team members to dinner at his
London home and we had many laughs especially with the French
drivers’ accents trying to recite Irish limericks;
- we had a lot of problems sending tyres to especially Iran and
Afghanistan but Total through their associates were able to
assist us and solve our problem;
- I can’t give you much first hand information on the actual rally
but I can tell you that it left a sour taste when we found out
that certain teams were in possession of the fact that speed
traps were in force in NSW;
- the rally actually finished at the Rothbury Estate winery in the
Hunter Valley and we originally lodged a protest about the speed
traps but the protest was later withdrawn.

I wish you well with the web site and book.

Best regards,

Ken Murden

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Rod Slater Sponsor Car 54 - November 21st, 2010 - By Peter Flanagan

Great Site and thank you for bringing it all together, well done.

I was the Western Australian Distributor for Renault and Peugeot
in Western Australia, at the time of the London-Sydney and was
responsible for entering car 54 (Eurocars/TVW7 entry), crewed by Bob
Watson, Ross Dunkerton(both Australian Rally Champions) with Roger
Bonhomme as the 3rd crew member.

I assumed responsibility for a ‘reconnaissance’ lap of the
Australian section and supplied a new Peugeot 504ti, for the
purpose, together with my then employee, Colin Redmond, who was
later to become service crew for the event, the 504 ‘reco’ car was
driven on the ‘reco’ lap, prior to the event, by Bob Watson, with
Col Redmond navigating.

I also accepted service responsibility, for the Turkish National
team, of 2 a Renault 12′s, for the Australian Section.

When the Peugeot service car was destroyed in a crash in Turkey, I
became involved, by default, to co-ordinate service from there on,
to the final leg in Sydney.

I organised for tyres to be air dropped throughout Eastern Europe
and gearboxes to Penang, I then sent Col Redmond to Penang and Col
then followed the team all the way from Penang to Sydney, doing the
Australian section in the Peugeot 504ti that I had provided for
the ‘reco’ lap.

Never did see that car again as after the event Bob Watson bought
it from me as a 6 months old, virtual ‘rolling wreck’ which he then
made into a Victorian rally car.

Rod Slater

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Motor Racing in Singapore – Posted by Lam Chun See - April 18th, 2009 - By Peter Flanagan

I came across mention of the Heritage Fest’s Vintage Car Showcase which went on parade around Connaught Drive recently. And with the F1 coming to Singapore in 2008, my memory went back to the days when motor racing was very popular. There was of course the Singapore Grand Prix races at the Old Upper Thomson Road course (between 1961 and 1973); which I would add was the first time street racing took place in Singapore. 2-wheeler “factory works” teams from Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki attracted the Ah Bengs and Mat Noors. Those who got deep pockets went for the cars. I can remember international participants like Vern Shuppan, Albert Poon, Motohashi, Tanaka and Chris Korn.

After 1973, motor racing went dead until 1977 when an international motor rally event came to Singapore. No lah, I am not referring to the motor shows at the Singapore Expo with those mini-skirted girls. I am not referring to karting either. Guess what? The National Stadium Car Park B was the venue. This was unusual because it was sponsored by none other than SINGAPORE AIRLINES. It was the 1977 London-to-Sydney Rally. It was in September 1977 when all the participants arrived in Singapore overland from Penang.

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Tom Snooks Remembers - April 17th, 2009 - By Peter Flanagan

In 2007 Tom wrote:

London to Sydney Marathon 1977

My involvement with this event was on the publicity side for the Total Oil Citroen Team. Total sponsored four Citroen CX2400s, including Jean-Calude Ogier, Paddy Hopkirk and Doug Stewart.

Max Stahl travelled with the event and each day telephoned reports back to Total Australia, where I was located on the seventeenth floor of its building in North Sydney, just up the road from radio station 2UE.

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New ‘stories’ post - April 17th, 2009 - By Peter Flanagan

This is just a test post.

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