It’s more than just a road event


The first Southern Cross Rally in 1966 covered more than three thousand kilometres of long-distance driving, the event did feature some short sections in the hills and gullies surrounding the early mining township of Bethanga. Conditions certainly suited the driving talents of the Flying Finn, Rauno Aaltonen, who emerged the winner of these relatively sprightly and very entertaining “special stages” in his Mini Cooper S. Reports describing the cloverleaf-style of the four competitive sections into, around and out of town, also make mention of the local policeman being absent “on annual leave”. With everything set for “the Rally” to arrive about 9:30pm, the locals were anticipating quite a show that night … and they weren’t disappointed!

CAMS stalwart Bob Taylor was the Control Chief stationed at the central point in town at the road junction directly across from the front of the hotel.  Bob’s main task was to ensure two or more cars did not leave from the same point on the same minute.  He was kept busy, filling out road cards using quarter minute timing, with cars travelling to and from four check points up to 150 metres away!

Four different coloured lights were hung from the main signpost; each intended to be switched on for their appropriate 15 second interval and be visible at the time check points.  Also attached to the post was a large time board to be monitored as required to display the actual minute throughout the proceedings.

Oh for two-way radios!  Confusion ran amok and mayhem won the day; however it was memorable and fun.  Thus began the folklore of the “Bethanga Stampede“.


Back in 1966 the Southern Cross Rally competitors entered Bethanga from the south-east, travelling via Jarvis Creek. Winter must have been bitter that year – snow was encountered on these roads during the preliminary surveys several months before the event.  We expect it will be warmer during our 2016 visit. Some sections of the road are still gravel, and so on Wednesday, October 26, the Dirt Fossils will approach Bethanga along this same route of 41.8 km during the 2016 Southern Cross Rally Festival TRE.

“Bethanga Loop North”, the shortest competitive section of the 1966 event included 3 gates along 4.7 miles (7.6 kms) for navigators to open and close, and were they running! All up, the time allowed for this section was 6 minutes! During the Bethanga Hall community dinner function on Wednesday, October 26, the 2016 TRE will feature a Dirt Fossil “rerun”, cruising this northern loop.  Fortunately the gates have been replaced by grids.


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