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When I started rallying in 1976, over 40 years ago, the local heroes of the day were guys like Barry Ferguson, Colin Bond, Ross Dunkerton and George Fury, and there were up and coming drivers like Greg Carr, Geoff Portman and others. The big international rally was the Southern Cross Rally, starting in Sydney, winding its way up the coast, with its base in Port Macquarie. Our big international rally was touted to be part of the new World Rally Championship. For a young, impressionable kid just out of school, the allure of the international stars was intoxicating. No iPhones, no internet, just colour glossy magazines at the local newsagent to whet our rally appetites. I joined plenty of clubs in those early days; the Renault Car Club, North Shore, Hills, Deepwater and others, forging friendships that endure to this day. I had done local events, both as a driver and navigator (common back then), and an opportunity came up to compete in the Southern Cross Rally in 1980 in the ex-Ian Hill Lancer. Let’s be clear, this was not your average rally. For a start there would be internationals, including the now famous Ari Vatenen, and even ‘Monster’ Tajima, and of course the best from Australia. It was our longest special stage rally, 2616km with over 1100km of competitive over four days. The questions mounted up. How many tyres will we need? How much time off? Who will service for us? Where do we stay and the most importantly, how much will it cost?
For starry eyed kids this was almost insurmountable at the time. The North Shore Sporting Car Club were a fantastic support base with advice and help from seniors. Once the decision was made we set to work, bringing it all together.
Support from Keith Byrn’s Premier Panel Beating, Ron Masing’s Coltspeed and Ian Hill from Gosford Dyno Tune, along with car club mates, ensured we got to the start at Bankstown Square. I took on a second job so I could build some cash and, of course, you had to get the time off work!

Contesting Australia's biggest rally could be the best rallying experience of your life, as Dallas Dogger found out in 1980.

Was it worth it? Well, I am still talking about it 38 years later and for a good reason. Memories! These events burn images into your memory that only a brain bleed could erase. Imagine standing with your mates, metres from heroes all driving on the same roads. Wow.
We even had shiny new driving suits. They were $35 from Race and Rally!
You have your chance too. The R6 Digital Cup, run in conjunction with Kennards Hire Rally Australia in November, is designed for those who are not part of a championship, to compete at the same time on the same roads with the world’s best. If I was young, it would be a no brainer. There is a big difference between my experience 38 years ago and today. The cars today, even basic ones are far faster, the roads are better, and you will compete with all of the best, not only from the WRC, but the ARC. It’s not as long and you won’t be anywhere near as exhausted as we were – some of the stages in the ‘Cross were as long as a whole ARC!
The atmosphere in the service park, signing autographs at the start, the sheer pleasure of competing is ample reward, and these images too will remain with you forever.
As you get older and have a family, your priorities will change and importantly, so will rallying. Do what you can to compete, get that second job, scrounge some tyres, ask for sponsorship, but simply be there and compete. In 40 years time you will look back and say: “What an event, glad I did it and I was only two minutes slower than Ogier on that stage!” If the red mist descends and you end up on the podium, you will share in $3000 prize money that R6 Digital has provided. I don’t know how much longer you will have the chance have to compete on home soil with thousands of spectators, and with the best in the world. Don’t miss your chance to do this! Entries are open shortly.
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