Victoria’s Graham Alexander and his navigator David Stewart have their sights set on winning what may well be the last of the 14 traditional ‘Round Australia’ Trials staged since 1953.

At the end of the fourth of the event’s nine Legs, the veteran rally crew in their potent 1975 Datsun 260Z sit just 44 seconds behind fellow Victorians David ‘Dinta’ and Kate Officer in their diminutive 1970 Mitsubishi Galant, who have controlled the 11-day 2008 Red Centre to Gold Coast Trial almost from the outset.

Now, with nearly half the event’s 7,600km covered, Alexander and Stewart are planning their move into the lead, as the surviving 52 entrants of the 70 starters make their way from Townsville to Longreach today.

Still sitting comfortably in third are the NSW crew of regular Volvo driver Mike Batten and navigator Steuart Snooks in their 1971 Datsun P510, while Kenya’s Jonathan Savage and Sebastian Tham have now taken a firm grip on fourth position in their Australian-built and prepared Datsun 260Z – just over eight minutes off the lead – an achievable margin in a marathon event such as this.

Notable performances further down in the order include the rise from 40th to 19th place at Townsville by nine-times NSW Rally Champion Barry Ferguson and David Johnson in Ferguson’s ex-Holden Dealer Team six cylinder Commodore, while the oldest car in her event – the 19651 Peugeot 203 of Graham Wallis and Richard Davies – is a very creditable 25th outright.

Amongst the many tales of woe, the 1968 Mercedes-Benz 280SL Pagoda of father and son team Pat and Brad Cole, now sits in 41st place after running as high as third outright, while the potent 1970 Ford Perana of Paul Darrouzet and Simon Brown that initially looked like challenging the Datsun 260Zs for the event lead, has dropped to 45th place outright after a reported accident.

From Townsville the Trial heads to Longreach via two special stages at Burdekin Dam and Doongmabulla, with the first cars due to arrive at the Longreach Showgrounds from 5.15pm.

Then on Tuesday (Sept. 16) the field departs Longreach from 6.00am, with the first cars arriving at the Birdsville Camping Ground from 4.30pm.

The event finishes in Victoria Mall, Broadbeach on Queensland’s Gold Coast on Saturday afternoon, September 20.

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