The recent tragic accident in Africa which resulted in the death of internationally-acclaimed driver and team manager, Ove Andersson, brought back memories of the part that he played with Roger Clark in what could have been an odds on-favourite win for the pair in a Lotus Cortina in the 1968 London–Sydney Marathon.

Andersson, aged in his thirties in 1968, was paired with Clark in a works-supported Lotus Cortina, the pair leading the event all the way across Europe to Bombay where the freighter, the Chusan, was waiting to take the remaining competitors and their cars to Fremantle and the start of the tough Australian section.

Ove Andersson had already proven that he was a perfect partner for Clark, sharing the driving and navigating, and although their pace was such that almost everyone expected them to be on the finishing podium at Sydney’s Opera House, fate was to intervene to deny them victory.

After crossing the Nullabor, the Clark/Andersson Lotus suffered engine problems and pulled into Quorn, south of the Flinders Ranges near Port Augusta, with misfiring problems. Mechanics removed the head and discovered the car had two burnt valves, theoretically putting the pair out of the running. Repairs to the head would have taken too long, so, in a very sporting gesture, the head was removed from another Ford entry, the similar Lotus Cortina of Englishman Eric Jackson, fitted to Clark’s car, and they were waved away with very little loss of time.

Clark and Andersson were soon back on the pace as they set record times north to Broken Hill, then south to Gunbar and on towards the sting in the tail, the fearsome roads over the Victorian Alps. If they could keep this pace up, then a podium finish was still a possibility.

Leaving Omeo, high up in the mountains in the dark, foggy early hours, Clark and Andersson sped on towards Bruthen on the bitumen road that heads along the Tambo valley. Suddenly, the Lotus Cortina’s differential cried ‘enough’ after its pounding over the last 15,000 kilometres from the other side of the world. The pair, so close to the finish and a possible victory, were forced to nurse their car along and were passed by five other competitors on the run south.

Just two miles from Bruthen, very early in the morning, Clark and Andersson spotted a Cortina parked on the side of the road, its two occupants fishing in the Tambo River. Screaming to a stop, Clark rushed back to the spot and attempted to persuade the fishermen to allow them to buy the differential from their car. Meeting the not-unexpected resistance from the owners, Clark and Andersson jumped back into their own car and slowly headed on towards Bruthen.

Suddenly car headlights appeared in their rear view mirror, and they pulled over and stopped. “Here, take what you want”, the fisherman said. “I didn’t realise you were Roger Clark”. It took 80 minutes to remove and fit the Cortina differentials at Bruthen and, with a quick swig on a bottle of water, Clark and co-driver Ove Andersson were away again in a desperate dash through the Alps to the competitive finish at Nowra.

What the bookies had suggested as a ‘no contest’ win for the pair turned out to be a nail-biting race against time that so nearly paid off, and their eventual 10th place was a truly amazing result for the pair, who individually went on to much bigger and greater things over the following years.

Forty years on from that iconic 1968 event, neither Clark, nor Andersson, are still with us, but the memories of that pairing of two of Europe’s greatest rally drivers in one of history’s most exciting events, lives on today.

Footnote: Expressions of Interest for this year’s re-run of the last 800 kilometres of the 1968 Marathon are coming in thick and fast. If you want to be part of this exciting 3-day tour from Wangaratta to Nowra, over the actual roads used in the event, you should register now as places are strictly limited.

Further information on the Re-Run is available HERE.

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