TOTAL OIL SOUTHERN CROSS INTERNATIONAL RALLY
Sydney – Port Macquarie, 8-13 OCTOBER 1977
The long-awaited victory by the Datsun Team came at last in 1977, when “Flying Finn“ Rauno Aaltonen, navigated by Jeff Beaumont (Tasmania), drove his Datsun 710SSS patiently to score by seven minutes from team-mates Harry Kallstrom / Claus Billstam. As is the hallmark of Rally Director, Dan White’s events, it was by no means an “easy all the way” win; the retirement of Australian stars Greg Carr / Wayne Gregson in their Escort a few stages from the end gave Aaltonen the lead and his chance to claim victory.
Datsun ﬁelded a strong ﬁve-car team, which in addition to Aaltonen and Kallstrom, included Timo Makinen, Shekhar Mehta and Australia’s joint champion, George Fury. Stig Blomqvst (Sweden) represented Saab, three Indonesian crews competed in Lancers, and the Kiwi contestants were Blair Robson (Escort), Allan Brough (Toyota) and Stewart McKenzie (Datsun 1200). Ten crews arrived from Japan, including Shinozuka, Iwashita and Ayabe. Mitsubishi had declined from participating and, for the ﬁrst time in ﬁve years, Cowan was a non-starter.
A field of 78 left Amaroo Park after a spectacular opening stage on the dirt circuit and motocross track. Makinen led throughout the ﬁrst division to reach Port Macquarie two minutes clear of Carr, and then followed Kallstrom, Aaltonen, Fury and Colin Bond (Escort). Thirteen cars were out of the rally, including Blomqvst’s Saab. Heading out from Port Macquarie on the second division and Carr was driving brilliantly, whittling back Makinen’s lead. The Datsun broke a fan belt and Carr took over the frontrunner’s spot. At the end of this leg, and mid-way through the rally, Carr was in the lead, ahead of Aaltonen on time points by just one minute, Makinen a close third and just in front of Kallstrom, who himself was being hard pressed by Bond!
Relishing the challenge, not only did Carr hold onto his lead through Division 3 — he increased it to seven minutes! Aaltonen was still in second place, but Kallstrom moved into the third slot when Makinen rolled over and dropped back to eighth place. Fury had forged up to fourth, narrowly ahead of Bond. On the ﬁnal division, Carr’s vehicle was requiring continuous battery changes due to an electrical fault, but still he had victory well within reach. Suddenly he encountered a barricade of logs that had been felled with sinister intent by “Friends of the Earth” devotees near Bellingen after the clerk vehicles had travelled through and given the ‘green light’ for the stage to commence. After mending his lights he continued, but was left stranded for 50 minutes when the ongoing electrical fault struck again. Already Makinen had retired with a split sump and the lead passed to Aaltonen and he made no mistakes, leading home in ﬁne style. Behind him though, much drama struck the others — Bond and Fury both rolled their vehicles, Shinozuka ran out of petrol but found some in time to hold fourth place behind Watson.
lst: Rauno Aaltonen / Jeff Beaumont, Datsun 710 SSS
2nd: Harry Kallstrom / Claus Billstam, Datsun 710 SSS
3rd: Bob Watson / Peter Godden, Datsun 710 SSS
4th: Kenjiro Shinozuka / Garry Connelly, Mitsubishi Lancer
5th: Greg Carr / Fred Gocentas, Ford Escort RS1800
6th: Shekhar Mehta / Adrian Mortimer, Datsun 710 SSS
Manufacturers Award: Nissan Motor Company