TOTAL OIL SOUTHERN CROSS INTERNATIONAL RALLY
Sydney – Port Macquarie, 9-13 OCTOBER 1976
Andrew Cowan scored his 6th “Southern Cross” victory – and the ﬁfth on the trot – in 1976. In contrast to his previous wins, this time it was not assured until the last 150 km. Australia’s George Fury and his Datsun 710SSS had led Cowan’s Mitsubishi, but a wrong turn and finally a blown diff ended his run.
Once again, a strong international field turned out; in all, 34 drivers of the ﬁeld of 89 entries came from overseas and, as with his events, Rally Director Dan White had planned a course that would test them thoroughly. Timo Makinen (Finland), Roger Clark (U.K.) and New Zealanders Blair Robson, Mike Marshall and Paul Adams were driving Ford Escort RS1800’s; Achim Warmbold (Germany) and Jean-Louis Leyraud (New Caledonia) both in BMW’s; Robert Soulard (New Caledonia) in a Renault Alpine and the Philippines’ Dante Sllverio in his Toyota Levin. Nissan’s team of drivers in their Datsun 710SSS vehicles included Swedes Harry Kallstrom and Per-Inge Walfridsson, Finland’s Rauno Aaltonen and Shekhar Mehtar from Kenya. Shinozuka (Lancer), Iwashita (Datsun) and Watanabe (Toyota) led the group of twenty Japanese crews, the largest number yet to compete in the ‘Cross.
As in past years, many of the international stars fell victim to the punishment inflicted on their cars by the hot early pace. After leading early, the Escorts of Makinen and Clark fell back and at the end of the ﬁrst night, Fury (Datsun) led the field into Port Macquarie, followed by Cowan, then Makinen, Clark and Ferguson (Lancer). Warmbold and Aaltonen were out already. Despite heavy pressure from Cowan – who took the lead brieﬂy – Fury led the second division home, while Makinen fell out with a blown diff and Clark pressed on gamely back in the dust with rear end damage. Ferguson had pushed up into third spot, just clear of Kallstrom. On the third night Fury continued his hot pace, but Cowan stayed with him and even gave his rival a friendly push-start when the Datsun’s starter motor failed! The ﬁrst four placings remained unchanged, but Mehta, Stewart (Lancer) and Walfridsson overtook Shinozuka. Several other Japanese stars were out as well – mostly with off-road excursions. Twenty-ﬁve crews lined up for the final division, and Fury looked a good thing. For 650km, Fury and Cowan ran neck and neck then, Fury ran up the wrong road, and Cowan hit the front. Soon after, Fury’s diff shattered and following Kallstrom’s retirement with a blown engine, only Mehta and Walfridsson were left to ﬂy the Datsun Team flag.
1st: Mitsubishi (Aust.) P/L – Andrew Cowan (Scotland)/Fred Gocentas (ACT), Mitsubishi Lancer,157 pts
2nd: Mitsubishi (Aust.) P/L – Barry Ferguson (NSW/Neil Faulkner (NSW), Mitsubishi Lancer, 203 pts
3rd: Nissan Motor Australia – Shekha Mehta (Kenya)/Adrian Mortimer (SA), Datsun 710 SSS, 205 pts
4th: Mitsubishi (Aust.) P/L – Doug Stewart (NSW)/John Dawson-Damer (NSW), Mitsubishi Lancer, 271 pts
5th: K. Shinozuka – Kenjiro Shinozuka (Japan)/Garry Connelly (Qld), Mitsubishi Lancer, 324 pts
6th: Nissan Motor Australia – Per-Inge Walfridsson (Sweden)/Peter Godden (NSW), Datsun 710 SSS, 348 pts
7th: I.W.Hill – Ian Hill (NSW)/Graham Roser (NSW), Mitsubishi Lancer, 391 pts
8th: D.Bond – David Bond (Vic)/Ian Richards (Vic), Mitsubishi Lancer, 418 pts
9th: M.Coote – Murray Coote (Qld)/Brian Marsden (Qld), Datsun 1200, 437 pts
10th: A.Crawford – Peter Janson (Vic)/Paul Paterson (Vic), Mitsubishi Lancer, 453 pts