Incredibly, it’s 25 years since the 18,500 kilometre Mobil 1 Round Australia Trial. A quarter of a century ... it’s hard to believe!
Back in 1995, Australian Rallysport News published the most comprehensive blow-by-blow report on the event – 11,000 words with scores of photos to accompany it.
To celebrate Ed Ordynski’s win in the historic event, we’re pleased to reprint the full article, together with our own ‘snippets’ from the event, and an exclusive look back on the Round Australia Trial written by Ordynski himself. Enjoy!
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If Ed Ordynski was to retire tomorrow, he could probably do so with the satisfaction that he'd done everything in the sport bar winning the World Rally Championship.
He's won the Australian Rally Championship, the Group N Championship, and has been the Group N winner in rounds of the World Championship in two countries. Now, he's added perhaps the icing on the cake - victory in a Round Australia Trial.
Together with Ross Runnalls (who, by the way, has won the Australian Championship more than once), they drove a brilliant Mobil 1 Round Australia Trial, pacing themselves for the most part, then opening up a lead when they finally hit the front.
If there was a driver in the Mobil 1 field who was going to get a car around Australia unscathed, it was Ordynski, and with Runnalls' legendary prowess behind the Halda, the pair were not unlikely winners.
For Michael Guest and Rod Salmon, second place is something they should be very proud of. If not for an alternator failure after a heat shield was left off after a turbo change, they probably would have won the event, but as history will show, it wasn't to be.
Guest silenced a lot of critics with his performance, and make no doubt that he'll win another ARC round very shortly because of the experience he gained in the 20-day, 19,000km event.
And in third place were Steve Ashton and Ro Nixon, the husband and wife team who never threatened for the lead, but were always well placed should Ordynski or Guest strike problems.
We should also spare a thought for Ashton's team-mates, Dinta and Kate Officer, rally leaders until half way to Alice Springs.
As George Shephard said to his driver, Ordynski, before the start, you only get one chance in your lifetime to win a Round Australia Trial. Ordynski did just that, and did it in style.
Michael Guest (right) and Rod Salmon were one of the favourites ahead of the 1995 Round Australia Trial.
LEG 1: Brisbane to Sydney
Tuesday, June 13 to Wednesday, June 14Distance (Reliability Trial): 1355km, 6 stages totalling 320km
Info: A very intensive introduction to the event. Mainly classic forestry stages in the Southern Cross Rally country in the Great Dividing Range.
Where they'll stop:
Brisbane (start) 12pm
Coffs Harbour Showgrounds 8.50pm
Newcastle (Charlestown Shop. Centre) 8am
Sydney (Church St Mall) 1.30pm
Sydney (Parc Ferme) 1.45pm
Melbourne husband and wife team David and Kate Officer took the lead of the Mobil 1 Trial on the first stage and held a lead of over four minutes by the time crews reached the first overnight stop in Sydney.
The Officers plan was to lead from the start until Adelaide (at least), and their plan went perfectly on the first day as their Mitsubishi Lancer was the car to beat.
Despite stopping to tow team-mate Peter Brock back on the road, Ross Dunkerton held second place over Michael Guest, with the other works Commodore of Ed Ordynski in fourth place.
Brock's 05 Commodore was the first car away from the Brisbane start, but seven hours later he slid off the road, dropping time and having to be pulled back on by Dunkerton. To make matters worse, Brock then reversed into Dunkerton, damaging both cars!
Then, within a couple of hours on the next stage at Coffs Harbour, Brock holed the Commodore's radiator with a stick and plummeted from fifth to 46th.
After day 1:
1. David Officer/Kate Officer, Mitsubishi Lancer RS-E, 3h02m59s
2. Ross Dunkerton/Noel Richards, Holden Commodore, 3.07.20
3. Michael Guest/Rod Salmon, Mitsubishi Galant VR4, 3.07.25
4. Ed Ordynski/Ross Runnalls, Holden Commodore, 3.10.37
5. Rowan Quill/Tony Wurf, Mitsubishi Galant VR4, 3.15.26
6. Steve Ashton/Ro Nixon, Mitsubishi Lancer, RS-E, 3.16.12
7. Graham Alexander/Gordon Douglas, Mitsubishi Galant VR4, 3.18.47
8. Bruce Garland/Hiroaki Suzuki, Holden Jackaroo LWB, 3.19.08
9. Rod Jones/John Giddings, Mitsubishi Lancer RS-E, 3.19.26
10. Peter Glennie/Peter Clark, Toyota Landcruiser RV80, 3.22.19
Ron Pedder tests his Holden Commodore ute before the event. Photo: Danny Murphy
LEG 2: Sydney to Melbourne
Thursday, June 15Distance: 1023km, 3 stages totalling 212km
Info: A tight day with limited opportunity for competition. Includes stages from the famous Castrol International and Alpine rallies.
Where they'll stop:
Sydney (start) 4am
Canberra (Braddon) 7am
Mt Disappointment 3pm
Melbourne (St Kilda Parkroyal) 5.29pm
Melbourne (Parc Ferme) 5.29pm
Leaving Sydney at 4am was a culture shock to crews in the event, but the flow of adrenalin was high, particularly amongst the front runners.
It was to be a long day, visiting Canberra on the way to the day's finish in Melbourne, although there were only a couple of competitive stages to challenge drivers. Of the 1023km on day two, there were just three special stages totalling a mere 212km to keep crews interested.
It was a straight blast down the Hume Highway to Canberra before the first special stage, the infamous Mineshaft stage, was contested. It was a battle of the Mitsubishi 4WD rally cars with Michael Guest (Galant VR4) 39 seconds faster than the Officers' Lancer, while Graham Alexander had his VR4 in third spot, just ahead of the Steve Ashton/Ro Nixon's Lancer Evolution.
Fifth fastest (not surprisingly considering his forest experience) was Ordynski in the first of the factory-supported V6 Commodores, 57 seconds off Guest's time. There was a small gap behind Ordynski, with Rowan Quill/Tony Wurf's VR4 sixth fastest, Dunkerton/Richards seventh and Brock/Boddy eighth.
The times recorded on the Mineshaft stage were not too surprising, but what was surprising was the pace of the heavy 4WDs, obviously suited to the rough Canberra stage despite their lack of legs on the fast stuff. Bruce Garland took his Holden Jackeroo to 10th fastest and at the same time cementing himself into eighth outright, just ahead of two other 4WDs in ninth and tenth respectively.
Holden's dream team. Brock, Ordynski and Ross Dunkerton.
Peter Brock was languishing in 41st spot after his earlier off road excursion and his time lost replacing the radiator in the third of the V6 Commodores.
While most people were happy with their performances to date, given the conditions, Bathurst driver Rod Jones, navigated by John Giddings, were smarting from a penalty applied when they failed to book into a passage control in the foyer of a hotel in Parramatta.
Competitors were required to pass through the passage control as part of a media promotion on their way to Parc Ferme, but Jones and Giddings allegedly bypassed the control, driving straight to Parc Ferme and incurring sufficient point losses to relegate them to a lowly position. The Bathurst boys went to bed that night in an unhappy frame of mind.
With Challenge competitors simply driving down the highway from Sydney to Albury, Trial crews took the longer route to the NSW/Victorian border for a refuel break before heading south again to the tiny historical town of Yackandandah. There the two groups met to contest a 25km stage through the Stanley Forest, with Challenge crews being the first to attempt the stage.
After rain in Sydney and Canberra, crews were pleased to see that the weather had improved remarkably, making the Stanley competitive one of the driest and most driver-friendly ones encountered so far.
There were few dramas in Stanley, although veteran Gerry Lister's Volvo encountered driveshaft problems mid-stage and was running very close to maximum late time, and the Peugeot 203 of John Anderson and Ken Grindrod had severe body damage to the roof and driver's side panels. “We hit a kangaroo," was all the crew would admit to, but it appeared that the damage was caused by something entirely different.
Rejoining the Hume at Wangaratta, there was another long haul down the highway before turning left into the Murrundindis and Mt. Disappointment – a favourite area for Melbourne rally crews. The weather was starting to look a little bleak again and although the majority of the field got through before the rains came, some of the tail enders had much less than ideal conditions in which to finish their day's motoring from Sydney.
ARC front-runner, Graham Alexander, in his Galant VR4 early in the 1995 event. Photo: Stuart Bowes
Reaching Melbourne at the end of day 3, the leader board was still an Officer benefit, the Lancer RSE crew leading Michael Guest by 4m 43s. Then followed a hard charging Dunkerton a further two minutes behind, and gradually getting used to the rear-wheel drive Holden. “We've managed to get the Commodore to waltz, now we need to get it to tap dance," quipped Dunkerton.
The second of the Commodores, that of Ordynski and Runnalls, was running next on the road, a further two and a half minutes adrift, then the order of the top 10 was Wurf, Ashton, Alexander, Garland, Glennie and finally Sydney driver Jim Middleton in his V8 Commodore.
Brock was languishing in 32nd spot, a result of his problems on day one.
The finishing order for the Challenge was Geoff Broad/David Abbott (Escort Twin Cam), followed by David Hodge/Tom Seymour in another Ford product, a Cortina. A third Ford filled the top three placings into Melbourne, the Ford Mustang of father and son team Ken and Kim Harper.
Harper senior, a former Ford works team driver from the 1960s and 70s, was attempting his seventh Round Australia event, and was well placed early on in his immaculately prepared car. A Datsun 1600 crewed by a father and daughter combination of Peter and Natasha Otzen (descendants of the legendary Harry Firth) were in fourth spot.
Steve Ashton and Ro Nixon eventually took third place in their Lancer RSE. Photo: Stuart Bowes
LEG 3: Melbourne to Adelaide
Friday, June 16Distance: 1130km, 5 stages totalling 198km
Info: Another tight schedule, with a wide variety of stages ranging from an Army training range, Goldfields stages, a salt lake and fast shire roads.
Where they'll stop:
Melbourne (start) 5.30am
Bendigo refuel 9.45am
Murray Bridge refuel 6pm
Adelaide (Parc Ferme, Vic. Park Racecourse) 7.14pm
It seemed that the ritual of an early start was to be the scenario for much of the Mobil 1 Round Australia Trial, and Melbourne at 5.30am on a cold June morning was hardly the ideal place to be.
However, cars started streaming out of Victoria's southern capital at one minute intervals as dawn slowly started to break in the eastern sky.
But there was something like 1130km to be covered before the rest halt at Adelaide that same evening, broken up with 5 special stages totalling almost 200km along the way. To the disappointment of the organisers, recent heavy rains had caused the cancellation of the stage at Sea Lake, scene of many off-road events at Easter each year. The route was badly flooded and, rather than risk a repeat of the bogging fiasco that dogged the 1979 Repco Round Australia near the South Australian border, the stage was deleted.
Two hours travelling time had been allowed for the transport stage to the Puckapunyal Army ground where the first stage for the day was to be run.
The route (for Trial crews only) used 44km of the Army's tank training tracks, access roads and link tracks, commencing with a huge descent from the top of Mount Puckapunyal to the flatland below. Kangaroos – usually fair prey for the Leopard tanks more often seen there – were a real nuisance and caused problems for many entries, not the least of whom was Ross Dunkerton.
Lawrie Beacham's 1968 Falcon GT had put a fan through the radiator on the steep and rocky descent and looked like it would barely make it to the end control. Brock, still cursing his wretched luck, punctured barely 10 minutes into the stage and lost time changing it.
Ordynski was a model of smoothness, carefully picking his way through the rough in an effort to preserve his car. Not so Dunkerton, however, who had a run-in with a large marsupial, damaging his front panels and smashing a headlight. Worse was to come, as shortly after he completely tore the front right wheel and suspension out after bouncing into a big culvert.
Unable to effect proper repairs, they hailed a passing Brock who hauled them back onto the road again, before Brock sped off, leaving the 5-times Australian Rally Champion to sort out the problems as best he could. They jacked the car up to wedge some logs under the car a-la Fred Flinstone, but the car fell off the jack, jamming it under the car.
After finally securing the logs under the front of the car to act as a skid, Dunkerton and Richards limped off to finish the stage on three wheels and a log. It was a long way to the stage end and the logs finally succumbed to the strain, dumping the heavy Commodore on the ground.
Undeterred, Dunkerton slid into the passenger seat and, with his leg draped over the centre console to reach the accelerator and with co-driver Richards seated in the left hand side of an open boot, they drove the next 15km along the main bitumen road to the Heathcote service break.
It was an awesome sight with sparks spewing out from the sump guard dragging on the bitumen, and the ARN (RallySport Mag) crew acting as an escort vehicle to warn other cars of their plight.
Dunkerton's chances of victory were dashed near Pukapunyal in central Victoria.
These dramas dropped the flying West Australian from 3rd to 27th place, thanks to the 30 minutes lost on the Puckapunyal stage.
Also out of contention after the Puckapunyal stage was Graham Alexander, after his Galant VR4 suffered major fuel pump problems. The only way for him to continue was for co-driver Gordon Douglas to sit in the boot holding the wire onto the fuel pump. At one stage, Dunkerton and Alexander were both driving along together at about 10km/h, with their co-drivers sitting in the boot! It must have been a funny sight.
After Heathcote another long transport stage led to Wedderburn, west of Bendigo for two quick stages through typical Victorian gold mining country.
Nissan Patrol-mounted Les Siviour, an acknowledged off road specialist, slammed his Nissan into a tree so hard that it pushed the suspension back and bent the chassis rail. He and co-driver David Brown were able to effect roadside repairs and continued on towards Adelaide.
Also making a charge up the leaderboard were the Victorian husband and wife team Ian and Val Swan. Their Falcon XR6 Longreach ute, one of two Ford supported entries, was performing brilliantly, despite a power steering failure that saw lan Swan having to drive the two tight Wedderburn stages without power assistance.
There were a total of 48 Challenge crews who started Leg 3. Peter Edwards' gutsy effort in his fully imported Escort RS Cosworth ended at Albury when the front diff expired. It wasn't a good day for Fords – Michael Blakiston/Chris Jones also retired in their Escort Mexico due to a broken axle, while the VW of Andrew Dodd retired when navigator Fred Perrott became ill.
Crossing the border into South Australia, a refuel break was taken at Murray Bridge at around 6pm, just prior to the final special stage before the overnight stop in Adelaide, where cars started arriving shortly after 7pm for Parc Ferme at Victoria Park Raceway.
Drama struck veteran long distance driver, Jim Reddiex from Queensland, and navigator Mal Crockenberg, ending their chances of a good placing. While servicing their Citroen DS63 in Adelaide, the car's carpet stuck under the accelerator pedal, causing the engine to over-rev and blow the EFI control before the crew could switch it off.
Major placings into Adelaide had not changed much, particularly at the sharp end of the field, although there was a lot of movement further back in the top 20.
David and Kate Officer still led (as they had planned to do from the outset), opening up a slight lead during the day to make the gap 6m 13s over Guest. Then followed Ordynski (now back in familiar home territory), Rowan Quill, Steve Ashton, Bruce Garland in the first of the "heavy” 4WDs, and heading a duo of similar vehicles driven by Peter Glennie and Terry Denham.
The Swans were into 9th outright and the Holden Jackaroo of Peter Lockhart completed the top 10.
Hal Maloney slides his Leyland P76 through the Watagan Mountains north of Sydney. Photo: Dave Miller
LEG 4: Adelaide to Alice Springs
Saturday, June 17 to Sunday, June 18Distance: 2191km, 8 stages totalling 342km
Info: Into the outback at last! Port Augusta sees the last of the conventional rally roads. From here the nature of the rally changes, using farm tracks of variable quality. These roads must be treated with respect, particularly by those not experienced in outback driving.
Where you'll see them:
Adelaide (start) Sam Hawker refuel 2pm
Port Augusta 5pm
Coober Pedy 1.18am
Alice Springs (Parc Ferme) 1.28pm
With 2191 kilometres including eight special stages (342km), the Adelaide to Alice Springs leg was going to be a tough one, but Dinta and Kate Officer shot straight out of the blocks again, winning the first two stages of the leg and adding to their "bank of time before the roads turned nasty.
With stiffer 'outback' suspension now fitted to their Lancer RS-E, the Officers outpaced Rowan Quill's VR4 by one second on the Beetaloo stage, but were 26 seconds quicker than Guest. They took quickest again on the Mt Remarkable stage, two seconds clear of Quill and 19 ahead of Guest, who was fourth fastest.
Brock was now making a charge and took third quickest time, 38 seconds ahead of Dunkerton. The touring car ace was now clawing his way back through the field after starting 27th in Adelaide - aiming to be in the top 20 by Alice Springs.
Leader of the recreational 4WDs, Bruce Garland, declared in Adelaide that his plan was "top five by Alice Springs, and then pick them off one by one like an old bull in a cow paddock". With the big 4WDs occupying 6th, 7th, 8th and 10th places, Garland's theory seemed quite reasonable.
But as crews headed towards Alice Springs in the rough and rugged conditions, the Mobil 1 Trial saw its first lead change since the start of the event when the Officers ground to a halt with transmission problems in their Lancer.
Michael Guest and Rod Salmon took over the lead as Officer tried to get his stricken car going again.
"You have your dreams," a bitterly disappointed Dinta said, "sometimes they just don't come true. But we're not giving up. We're in this event for the sport and we'll keep going.”
Guest suddenly found himself seven minutes clear of his nearest challenger, the V6 Commodore of Ed Ordynski, but the quietly spoken South Australian wasn't panicking just yet. “There's still two weeks to go and a lot of things can happen," he said.
Guest was equally confident: "We're pacing ourselves and the car, treating it gently. I'm out to prove I'm not just a tear-away forest racer."
The Falcons were still making spectacular progress, with lan Swan's XR6 ute in seventh spot, and Terry Harris' '68 GT in ninth, but Rod Jones decided to call it quits back in Adelaide after an appeal to the event Stewards about their time penalty in Sydney failed.
"Once you've missed a control there's no hope of getting back in touch with the leaders,” Jones lamented.
Long distance rally expert, Jim Reddiex, hit problems when his Citroen over-revved during a service break. Photo: Stuart Bowes
After leaving Adelaide at 8am on the Saturday morning, Michael Guest finally arrived in Alice Springs at 6pm on the Sunday night! But the Newcastle driver's lead was down to three minutes as Ed Ordynski made up time on roads that suited his big Commodore.
Following Ordynski on the road was Rowan Quill and Tony Wurf in their VR4 (who could have been second, but for a flat tyre), and the Lancer RS-E of Steve Ashton and Ro Nixon. Ashton, as fortune would have it, now had the best service crew in the event following David Officer's withdrawal after he couldn't fix his transmission problems.
Ashton now had five vehicles supporting him and 10 people, including Officer himself.
Dunkerton and Brock were both spectacular on the leg, moving up to 17th and 18th places respectively. Dunk's car required a new cylinder head after the WA driver over-revved his V6 engine, finishing the final stage of the leg on five cylinders, but he pronounced the car as “perfect" at the overnight halt. "I'm surprised how well the Commodore goes,"
he said. “I've done the Australian Safari in Pajeros before and this goes just as well off-road."
Retirements on Leg 4 included Bryan van Eck and Damien Long when the front strut of their Laser TX3 called it quits, and the Alfa Guilia Super of Brendan Lindsey and John McLaughlin, which hit a tree.
Bathurst's favourite son, Rod Jones, decided that as the stewards would not reinstate their points loss for missing a passage control back at Parramatta, he and John Giddings would pack their bags and go home. Unfortunate, because the likeable and experienced Jones was capable of running at a match winning pace in his Lancer Evolution. But the stewards were apparently unmoved by his defence argument and docked their points.
While the big 4WDs continued to impress, with Garland and Glennie now fifth and sixth, Les Siviour was now back up to 14th in his Nissan Patrol after badly damaging his vehicle in Victoria, and hopeful of a possible top 10 placing by Perth.
Placings at Alice Springs:
1. Guest/Salmon (VR4), 2. Ordynski/Runnalls (Commodore), 3. Quill/Wurf (VR4), 4. Ashton/Nixon (Lancer), 5. Garland/Suzuki (Jackaroo), 6. Glennie/Clark (Landcruiser), 7. Swan/Swan (Falcon ute), 8. Middleton/Morley (Commodore), 9. Harris/ Seymour (Falcon), 10. Denham/Stubbs (Pajero), 11. Lockhart/Donovan (Jackaroo), 12. Anderson/Fulcher (Alfa), 13. Brown/Stott (Nissan), 14. Siviour/Brown (Nissan), 15. Moloney/Waters (P76), 16. Beacham/Rosenow (Falcon), 17. Dunkerton/Richards (Commodore), 18. Brock/Boddy (Commodore), 19. Doherty/Bailey (Lancer), 20. Marks/Mahoney
In the Round Australia Challenge stakes, Hodge/ Seymour in the '79 Round Oz Cortina were in first place, two points ahead of Broad/Abbott (Escort), with the Mustang of the Harpers and the Datsun 1600 of the Otzens in equal third place.
Roland Tidd and Graham Wallace were fifth, but well off the leading bunch, in their Peugeot 403.
Michael Guest set the pace on the early days of the 1995 Round Australia Trial. Photo: Stuart Bowes
LEG 5: Alice Springs to Kalgoorlie
Monday, June 19 to Tuesday, June 20Distance: 1990km, 4 stages totalling 217km
Info: Crews will see Ayers Rock in daylight. There are two stages before Ayers Rock, then a long, long drive across the Great Victoria Desert which all vehicles in the event (including service crews) will share. From Laverton, another two stages complete the run into Kalgoorlie.
Where you'll see them:
Alice Springs (start) Sam
Ayers Rock 2.23pm
Kalgoorlie (Parc Ferme) 10.08am
The infamous Gunbarrel Highway and two rough special stages took their toll on the 135 surviving competitors. As competitors in both sections rolled into Australia's gold mining capital, Kalgoorlie, there was visible evidence of broken cars and broken dreams.
The front running positions remained basically unchanged since Alice Springs, but all cars looked distinctly secondhand and battle scarred - particularly that of event leader Michael Guest, despite maintaining his lead over Ed Ordynski.
Guest arrived in Kalgoorlie with a broken windscreen, a smashed passenger-side window and a bent front mudguard – the result of striking trees and branches on the 60km Korong special stage near Laverton. Guest and Salmon also suffered front suspension damage and had a driveshaft failure on their Galant VR4, but made it to the start of the Korong stage with two minutes to spare, after repairing the damage on the side of the road.
Ordynski, too, suffered some damage, arriving with both exterior mirrors missing from his Mobil Commodore, while the new third placed crew of Steve Ashton and Ro Nixon declared that it was the hardest leg of the event.
Terry Harris' big Falcon suffered front suspension failure too, lying stranded until Ian Swan's service crew appeared and lent Harris the right parts to fix his stricken car. His own service crew had broken down as well - some 500km away after their trailer parted company with the tow car!
The fascinating battle between Ross Dunkerton and Peter Brock continued as the pair made their way back up through the field. Dunkerton moved into eighth place after an heroic and spirited drive through the desert, during which he clouted a tree, breaking his windscreen and losing his left hand mirror. He nevertheless took delight in waiting at the end of the stage to see Brock arrive with a time four minutes slower than his, after stopping to change a flat tyre.
George Shepheard ran a slick operation for the factory Holden squad. Photo: Stuart Bowes
Dunkerton was in his element on the final CarrBoyd stage, passing three cars in appallingly dusty conditions with visibility down to 100 metres. He set fastest time, some 26 seconds faster than Guest, and 2m18s quicker than Brock. Brock was now in 14th place.
The Castrol Commodore was now eyeing off the Ford Longreach ute of Ian Swan, which was only four minutes ahead, while Bruce Garland's Jackaroo was closing in on Rowan Quill in the Galant VR4 in fourth spot.
The most bizarre incident of the leg was reserved for Challenge competitors Dallas Durreen and Bill Poole in their 1981 Ford Fairlane. The pair hit a wandering camel, extensively damaging their vehicle. Also out were the Leyland P76 crew Michael Coates and Chris Jones when the car broke a crankshaft on SS25.
Top 10 at Kalgoorlie:
1. Guest/Salmon (Galant VR4),
2. Ordynski/Runnalls (Commodore),
3. Ashton/Nixon (Lancer RS-E),
4. Quill/Wurf (Galant VR4),
5. Garland/Suzuki (Jackaroo),
6. Glennie/Clark (Landcruiser),
7. Swan/Swan (Falcon ute),
8. Dunkerton/Richards (Commodore),
9. Harris/Seymour (Falcon), 1
0. Middleton/Morley (Commodore).
Broad and Hodge were now equal first in their Fords in the Challenge, with Ken Harper a clear third, 21 points ahead of Wallace's Peugeot. The Otzen Datsun 1600 dropped back to ninth place, a massive 75 points from the lead after major problems on the fifth leg.
LEG 6: Kalgoorlie to Perth
Wednesday, June 21Distance: 896km, 4 stages
Info: An intensive day of competition, with stages ranging from farm tracks to a Rally Australia forestry special stage.
Where you'll see them:
Kalgoorlie (start) 5.30am
Perth (Parc Ferme, Scarborough Beach) 5.08pm
Arriving in Perth after the shortest day of the Trial and after extending his lead over second placed Ed Ordynski, Trial leader Michael Guest hit out at his critics who had been predicting his demise from the lead since Officer's retirement a few days earlier.
“People keep waiting for me to make a mistake,” an angry Guest said, “They're dying to say 'I told you so - he's quick but makes mistakes'. I'm not going to give them that satisfaction,” he said.
Guest claimed he was still driving well within himself, and that he wasn't the least bit concerned of the fast pace being set by Dunkerton and Brock. "They have to drive like mad buggers because they've made mistakes. I haven't gone off the road once - but you don't hear people bagging them for over driving!”
Ordynski was the only crew Guest and Salmon were worried about, and while Dunkerton may now have been well inside the top 10, he was still a long way from the lead.
As for Brock, his rally had all but ended after he hit Terry Denham's Nissan while trying to pass it on a stage, holing his radiator once again and doing major panel damage to the front and left hand side of his Commodore. He was towed out of the stage by another competitor, but was able to continue - albeit well down the field again - after the damage was repaired.
Bruce Garland was confident of moving up the leaderboard when the rally hit the outback. Photo: Stuart Bowes
Ashton was still third, Quill fourth and Garland fifth, but sixth placed Peter Glennie claimed that he planned to be in third place by Darwin, and in the lead by Townsville! But for a horror stretch a couple of days before when they had four punctures (three on the one stage), Glennie believed he could have been much closer to Garland, but he wasn't concerned just yet.
"We'll pick up time on the way to Broome on the more open and rougher stuff - we'll have the wood on Garland's Jackaroo then," Glennie predicted. "It's still too early to make predictions, but we need to be in front of the rally cars by Townsville, because they'll run us down in the tighter stages further down the coast near Brisbane.”
Garland was still four and a half minutes behind Rowan Quill and Tony Wurf, but the Jackaroo struck gearbox troubles on the run into Perth, finishing the Mundaring special stage with the gearbox locked in fifth gear. As predicted, Les Siviour and David Brown were back in the top 10, running ninth and moving ahead of Terry Harris' Falcon in 10th.
Allan Doherty and Allan Bailey had the misfortune of demolishing a tree in their Lancer GSR, causing their retirement from the event.
LEG 7: Perth to Broome
Thursday, June 22 to Friday, June 23Distance: 2510km, 7 stages totalling 340km
Info: The longest leg of the event, with several testing stages to ensure that crews earn their day off in Broome. The course revisits part of the 1979 Repco, and takes in the quintessential outback towns of Cue and Marble Bar.
Where you'll see them:
Perth (start) 7.30am
Marble Bar 7.40am
Broome (Parc Ferme) 4.04pm
The welcome break in Broome for the weary crews was eagerly awaited and, at a day and a night, was long enough for everyone to catch their breath and reassess the situation. It had been a long way to Broome, both in time taken and in total distance travelled, but despite wanting to be someplace else, there was no going back.
Having consolidated their positions by now, none of the competitors in the top ten were prepared to risk anything at all. After all, a blindingly fast stage time could easily result in a puncture, a mechanical problem or worse, an accident, and it would be stupid to ruin a good run just to try and get a break on the following crews.
Realistically, there were only six competitors with any chance of winning the Mobil 1. While the money at 2-1 was on event leaders Michael Guest and Rod Salmon, Ed Ordynski and Ross Runnalls in the almost totally unscathed Commodore were still playing a waiting game, hoping that Guest's car would break.
The Mutschler / Torode Peugeot 504 fords a water crossing on Australia's east coast. Photo: Stuart Bowes
Ordynski was revelling in the conditions and was obviously pleased to be this close to the leader in the reliable Commodore, thanks to the South Australian's ability to stroke his cars along at a winning pace.
The Ashtons, having the luxury of a professional service crew in the form of Dinta Officer and his helpers, were handily placed in third spot and itching to up the ante. They held a slender two and a half minute buffer over Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki, but expected to lose this lead once the real rough stuff started.
"We're planning to look after the car until we get to Townsville and really get moving down the east coast to the finish," Ashton claimed. "We're not going to get sucked into a race at this stage."
As many pundits had predicted, the long-awaited charge of the big 4WDs was starting to emerge. As far back as Adelaide, Garland had predicted that he would be third by Broome and leading by Darwin. He was now in fourth and looking stronger as the days went by.
A war of words was starting to erupt, involving a few of the leaders. Guest was unimpressed by Garland's predictions saying, “Garland and Glennie should make time on us on the rougher stuff, but they always say 'wait until tomorrow, but tomorrow's never come".
Also sceptical was Ashton, claiming that Garland had already been through two gearboxes. Garland retorted that it was due to a faulty batch of gears, “but that's all behind us now".
Peter Glennie, the Moree cotton farmer, was in fifth and happy with his trouble-free run. “We'll be putting the pressure on across the top because realistically we want to be further up the list by Townsville to stand any chance," he said.
As well, Dunkerton was up to sixth and likely to offer a threat the longer the event ran, but no one was bold enough to discount the heavy 4WDs of Bruce Garland/Harry Suzuki, and Peter Glennie/Peter Clark. Dunk's problem too, was dust, and catching Garland and Glennie in the stages didn't help his progress up the ladder.
Consequently be and Noel Richards took the unusual step of booking late into control to gain an extra 2 minute dust gap. Until then, Dunk had been catching the 4WDs within 30 to 40 seconds of leaving control. “The net result is a faster stage time and we need all of those we can get to make up valuable time,” the laconic West Aussie confided.
Early problems meant Peter Brock had to push hard to make up for lost time. Photo: Dave Miller
Some 21 minutes behind the Dunkerton Commodore was Dubbo driver Les Siviour and David Brown, their Nissan Patrol now battling on in fine form, despite the damaged chassis which was described by Siviour as "being as good as it's going to get":
But Guest was already rueing the fact that he had been docked eight minutes for booking into Parc Ferme eight minutes late in Perth, and was anxious to make up time wherever he could. On the dusty Mingah Springs stage, Guest and Salmon took full advantage of their coveted first on the road position to record fastest time, pulling a full three and a half minutes off the next best. Claiming he'd lost too many rallies by being car two on the road, Guest was pleased to open up the gap, something he needed to do if the 8-minute penalty incurred in Perth was to be applied.
The Newcastle crew would be under intense pressure on the 2000km Broome to Darwin leg which was to start the following day. There were numerous rocky creek crossings to ford and washaways to negotiate, something that Guest knew would favour the Commodores, not to mention the big 4WDs.
All the while Ordynski and Runnalls were playing a waiting game, confident that their faultless run to date would only get better.
Guest knew what it was like to be under pressure, but he and Salmon certainly didn't bank on losing their VR4s exhaust on a series of dips on the Corruna Downs stage. Even though the car ran well, there was the ever-present threat of fire from the open exhaust, but Guest nevertheless set fastest time.
The cramped front compartment of a Falcon Longreach ute would hardly be described as being the most hospitable of cabins for a long distance rally, but Ian and Val Swan were obviously coping admirably. The experienced Australian Safari driver was apparently in his element, being in eighth place by the Broome rest break, and claiming the Falcon was as strong as ever. The Swans were looking at narrowing the gap, but their task was going to be a difficult one. All they could hope for was a few retirements further up the track.
Also just inside the top ten were a Nissan Turbo Diesel crew, that of Andy Stott and Andy Brown. Their drive was a model of reliability and they were using little of their allocated service time. “You can only wash a Nissan Patrol so many times," Stott quipped.
Well down the field, from a brilliant fourth place to a lowly 10th, were Galant VR4 campaigners Rowan Quill and Tony Wurf. Front suspension problems on the Bullfrog Well stage saw them limp to the finish of the stage, losing over 50 minutes in the meantime. Co-driver Wurf was forced to sit in the boot (sounds familiar!) to take the weight off the damaged front end before it could be repaired again.
Jim Middleton pushes his Commodore hard in the early stages of the event. Photo: Stuart Bowes
There were four retirements on the long and gruelling Pert to Broome stage - Graham Alexander and Gordon "Trout” Douglas had their VR4 finally cry "enough" with a broken crankshaft. This was the second time that the hapless Alexander would fail to finish a Round Australia event – his Mk2 Escort breaking down on the first day of the 1979 Repco.
Patrick and Arthur Vanson retired their Peugeot 504 for reasons unknown on SS33. The Falcon ute of John Roberts and Mark French retired before completing SS31, and the big XW GTHO Falcon of Bruce Hogarth and David Moir expired with clutch failure. As well as that, husband and wife team Terry and Josephine Kuss gave it away in Perth in their EA Falcon.
At 5am the following morning the Mobil 1 circus would be on the move again, contesting some of the roughest country yet encountered and it would be a full two days before the lights of Darwin welcomed them.
Top 10 at Broome:
1. Guest/Salmon (Galant VR4);
2. Ordynski/Runnalls (V6 Commodore), +10m31s;
3. Ashton/Nixon (Lancer RS-E), +27.43;
4. Garland/Glennie (Jackaroo), +31.01;
5. Glennie/Clark (Landcruiser), +46.33;
6. Dunkerton Richards (V6 Commodore), +57.03;
7.Siviour/Brown (Patrol), +1h17m14s;
8. Swan/ Swan (Falcon XR6 Ute), +1.21.56;
9. Brown/ Stott (Nissan Patrol), +1.28.11;
10. Wurf/Quill (Galant VR4), +1.30.37.
LEG 8: Broome to Darwin
Sunday, June 25 to Monday, June 26Distance: 2027km, 5 stages totalling 223km
Info: Another long grind, with the infamous Gibb River Road included. Most of the competitive action is between Kununurra and Darwin, with four very interesting special stages. The people of Darwin have arranged a big welcome for crews on the Darwin wharf arca.
Where you'll see them:
Broome (start) 5am
Darwin (Parc Ferme) 5pm
Michael Guest started the leg to the top of the country with some bad news after receiving the 8-minute penalty for booking into control early in Perth. However, Guest won an appeal against another two minute penalty, leaving him six minutes poorer and with a lead of just under five minutes.
The high top-end temperatures started playing havoc with Steve Ashton's Lancer, which started to overheat badly on the first stage of the leg, while the Quill/Wurf Galant hit more front suspension troubles that put them back another place to 11th.
Brock was in 41st place and having to overtake many cars on each stage, but organisers were considering regrouping the field based on special stage times in Darwin, giving the faster crews near the back of the field more of a dust free run.
NSW rally regulars Kirk Marks and Peter Mahoney in their Toyota Corolla Seca. Photo: Stuart Bowes
Guest's charge to regain his 10 minute margin gained momentum south-east of Kununurra just before dawn when he was 2m 39s quicker than anyone else. Dunkerton was third quickest, and now into fifth place after the 4WD Landcruiser of Peter Glennie dropped back with electrical problems, and dropping 14 minutes to Guest on one stage.
Les Siviour was furious after hitting a 'beached private Toyota on a river crossing on the Gibb River Road stage, smashing his Nissan's radiator and having to be towed out of the water. He lost over an hour while the vehicle was repaired, but still held a slender lead over eighth placed Ian and Val Swan in their Falcon ute.
But then the most dramatic event since Dinta Officer's retirement took place on the Munbulloo stage near Katherine. Guest arrived at the start of the stage one and a half minutes late, after suffering alternator problems on the previous transport section. The team had done a major service, replacing the turbo (among other things), but had forgotten to put the heat shield back on the alternator. Subsequently, the alternator heated up and melted a wire, causing the alternator to fail.
His team replaced the faulty alternator, only to have it fail again on the way to the stage start. Guest and co-driver Salmon started the stage with power from only the car's battery (with a spare battery tied down in the boot), and mid-way through the 61km test they ran out of electrical power, forcing the duo to make mid-stage repairs.
The Galant VR4 arrived at the finish with rear suspension problems, a flat tyre and with the
spare battery on fire in the boot! "Things are going downhill fast at the moment,” Guest said. “We have been sitting in bulldust for the past 60km and the world isn't such a pretty place anymore. I hope we can get back on track once we get to our service guys."
Ordynski and Runnalls had therefore inherited the lead for the first time in the 20-day event, and surprisingly, were only the third leaders of the event - and the first non-Mitsubishi to head the field.
“This is something we have been waiting for the whole event," Ordynski commented. “We have been nursing the car in second place and it's the first time since Port Augusta that we haven't been eating blinding dust. It's a big advantage to be first on the road - now I can see all the ant hills and other things I have been hitting!”
While still in second place, Guest was over 12 minutes behind the leading Mobil Commodore, but importantly, eight minutes clear of third placed Steve Ashton's Lancer RS-E. Bruce Garland was still in fourth place, well clear of the still-charging Ross Dunkerton.
Bruce Garland rolled his Holden Jackaroo spectacularly on the 'Pine Creek' stage. Photo: Stuart Bowes
lan and Val Swan were suffering a recurrence of earlier clutch slippage problems, but still clung onto eighth place with one stage to go before the overnight stop in Darwin.
Bruce Garland's hopes took a turn for the worse on the final stage of the day, 'Pine Creek’, when he spectacularly rolled his Jackaroo, extensively damaging the roof and front body work. Yet he only lost a minute and still pulled into Darwin in fourth place, 22 minutes clear of Ross Dunkerton's Commdore.
“I ran out of road, but not out of talent,” Garland said confidently.
Guest's 7-day run as leader of Australia's toughest event had ended, and he was not looking forward to the prospect of eating Ordynski's dust for the next leg from Darwin to Mt Isa.
The organisers decision to re-seed the field in Darwin, to enable faster cars such as Brock's Commodore to run near the front of the field, caused plenty of discussion. Many believed that you should start where you were placed (around 40th in Brock's case), but the touring car ace and a few other crews were no doubt looking forward to having less dust than in previous days.
Top 10 at Darwin:
1. Ordynski/Runnalls (Commodore);
2.Guest/Salmon (Galant VR4), +12m16s;
3. Ashton/Nixon (Lancer), +20.25;
4. Garland/Suzuki (Jackaroo), +25.23;
5. Dunkerton Richards (Commodore), +47.56;
6. Glennie/Clark (Landcruiser), +55.59;
7. Siviour/Brown (Nissan), + 1.14.03;
8. Swan/ Swan (Falcon XRO), +1.27.15;
9. Brown/Stott (Nissan), +1.29.29;
10. Denham/Stubbs (Pajero), +1.32.04.
Just out of the top 10 were Rowan Quill and Tony Wurf, just ahead of the amazing Alfa Romeo 75 of Richard Anderson and Bruno Fulcher, while Jim Middleton and Phil Morley had their Commodore in 13th. Terry Harris was still the leading Historic car, his Falcon GT in 14th, eight minutes up on Hal Maloney's Leyland P76.
In our next instalment, it’s the final run from Darwin to Brisbane as Michael Guest tries to hunt down Ed Ordynski, and everyone else tries to maintain station, or simply make it to the end of an epic 18,500km marathon.
The rally ended badly for the Alfa Romeo Guilia Super of Brendan Lindsay and John McLaughlin. Photo: Stuart Bowes
LEG 9: Darwin to Mt Isa
Tuesday, June 27 to Wednesday, June 28Distance: 2061km, 4 stages totalling 300km
Info: After two special stages near Darwin, the rally crosses the remote and demanding Gulf Country. Although rally stages suitable for 2WD cars are hard to find in this area, the long journey will reveal whether the cars have been screwed together properly. The final two stages near Mount Isa top off a rugged leg.
Where you'll see then:
Darwin (start) 8am
Cape Crawford 10pm
Mount Isa (Perc Ferme) 7pm
Michael Guest did everything asked of him on the Round Australia, but had to settle for second place. Photo: Stuart Bowes
The Darwin to Mt Isa leg was billed by event director Bob Watson as being the most demanding of the event, and it was indeed the last real chance for the big 4WDs to take the front running before crews swept down the Queensland coast on more tighter forest stages.
Garland was getting worried too, wondering if he'd actually get in front of the rally cars. "I thought we would have run them down by Darwin, but they've lasted longer than we expected,” he admitted. “I hope the roads from here on are really tough, that's all.”
Most were expecting that Guest, with his tired service crew, limited resources and no manufacturer support, would be easy prey for the Holden team of Commodores and Jackaroos, but the young charger was not ready to give in yet. Nor was Steve Ashton, despite his overheating problems.
"We deliberately went harder yesterday over the rough stuff to see just how hard we could push the big 4WDs,” Ashton said. “We were concerned about Garland catching us from behind, but now we're more confident about our chances.
“We have been conserving the car until now, so we have some 'credit' in the bank. But now it's time to spend up!”
Ross Dunkerton was by now pretty unlikely to win, but had plenty of praise for Guest.
"Michael's gone up in everyone's estimation for the job he's done so far. He has the pace to get the lead back, but it's pretty awesome for him to contend with the might of Holden at this stage," he admitted. "His only hope is if Mitsubishi throw some real support under him, like Volvo did for me in the 1979 Trial when we were in with a real show. Otherwise, he's in real trouble!”
Ross Dunkerton was a pre-event favourite, but suffered many problems in his works Commodore. Photo: Dave Miller
But things quickly got even worse for Guest on the night stage at McArthur River, south of Borroloola. Ordynski showed his true colours with a dust-free run and over the 37km stage, was a full nine minutes faster than anyone else!
Guest slipped off the road in the appalling dust, losing around three minutes, meaning that Ordynski and Runnalls' lead was now a staggering 25 minutes (the biggest of the event to date), while Guest and Salmon were only four minutes clear of Steve Ashton and Ro Nixon.
It was Guest's first true unforced error in the event, and what made it worse was that a breeze picked up later in the evening, making things a bit easier for crews running back down the field.
Third fastest on the stage was Terry Harris and John Seymour in the 1968 Falcon GT. Bruce Garland's hopes of victory were as good as dashed with a time 46 seconds slower than his team-mate Peter Lockhart, who was running 14th on the road.
Guest was therefore looking at the final stage of the leg, a 70km test just out of Mt Isa, as one of his last chances of pegging back Ordynski's lead, while Steve Ashton was eyeing off second place with more enthusiasm than he had done at any time during the event.
As the crews arrived into Mt Isa on Wednesday afternoon (June 28) Ross Dunkerton's hopes of winning the Mobil 1 Trial were finally dashed. His Castrol Commodore holed a piston on the final 65km Gunpowder stage north west of the Queensland mining capital, and he and Noel Richards were out.
Earlier in the stage they had broken a shock absorber and changed a flat tyre. Then they had to slow to let another competitor past when their engine woes started, and they hit a rock in the process. Dunkerton had admitted that his only hope of winning was for the front runners to strike trouble - but he wasn't expecting his Commodore to fail!
Michael Guest, as predicted, started his charge back to re-claim the lead with fastest time on the stage, reducing the gap between he and Ordynski to just under 24 minutes, but it was fair to say already that Ordynski was more than happy to be just protecting his already substantial lead. Nevertheless, Guest had Ordynski's dust to contend with and was a minute and a half quicker than the rally leader, who himself was a second behind Bruce Garland's Jackaroo on the stage.Steve Ashton was fourth quickest, just behind the leading Commodore, but needing to pull something out of the hat to challenge Guest, particularly after news the night before that the Mitsubishi dealers from Mt Isa to the Gold Coast had vowed to have their service and spare parts doors open at all hours as the Newcastle driver tried to pull back the Holden advantage.
However, it was likely that Ashton, driving a Mitsubishi as well, would also receive such support if needed.
Dunkerton was not the only crew to experience ‘fireworks' on the aptly named Gunpowder stage, as sixth place Peter Glennie and Peter Clark had a flat tyre, and lan and Val Swan lost their eighth place after running out of brakes and having a wild ride for the last 40km. Swan went off the road once, hitting a tree and breaking the windscreen, but he was happy to get to the end of the stage, and rapt to be 13th fastest!
Swan's mishap moved the event's tortoise', the diesel Nissan Patrol of Andrew Stott and Andrew Brown, into eighth place, but worse was in store for Stott's team-mates Terry Connor and Des Harrington who left the road and did some front end damage, before being hit from behind in the dust by the ill-fated Jackaroo of Peter Lockhart. It was Lockhart's second accident for the event - his first was the much publicised incident near Kalgoorlie.
Brock, meanwhile, was forging through the field and was now in 35th place after posting a third fastest and a fifth fastest stage timeon the leg to Mt Isa.
Datsun 1600 driver Terry Naish and co-driver Richard Mason had had their fair share of bad luck, removing a piston from the car's engine halfway through the leg and driving the 1000km to Mt Isa on only three cylinders. “We've only got another 3100km to go," a confident Naish said.
In the Challenge section, Roland Tidd and Graham Wallis had joined the retirement list in their Peugeot 403 after they hit a rock and holed the sump. They had been comfortably third in the Challenge, making it even more heart breaking.
Top 10 at Darwin: 1. Ordynski/Runnalls (Commodore); 2. Guest/Salmon (Galant VR4), +23m48s; 3. Ashton/Nixon (Lancer), +29.37; 4. Garland/Suzuki (Jackaroo), +46.28;5.Glennie/ Clark (Landcruiser), +1h13m04s; 6. Dunkerton/Richards (Commodore), +1.20.53; 7. Siviour/Brown (Nissan), +1.27.33; 8. Brown/Stott (Nissan), +1.43.29; 9. Swan/Swan (Falcon XRO), +1.46.12; 10. Denham/Stubbs (Pajero), +1.46.36.
LEG 10: Mt Isa to Townsville
Thursday, June 29Distance: 1040km, 3 stages totalling 185km
Info: Basically a straight run east, but featuring one of the most demanding stages of the event in the traditional Redex 'horror stretch' country between Mount Isa and Cloncurry, and a late stage between historic Charters Towers and Townsville.
Where you'll see them:
Mount Isa (start) 6am
Townsville (Mobil) 7.13pm
Townsville (Parc Ferme) 8.30pm
A war of words broke out between the leading two crews in the Mobil 1 Trial as the 110 remaining crews headed towards Townsville before the home-stretch to the Gold Coast.
Second-placed Michael Guest hit out angrily at leader Ed Ordynski for holding him up for nearly 20 of the 75km "Hillside" stage, east of Mt Isa at the start of leg 10.
No Bull. The Pedder team service the Commodore ute of Ron and Mark Pedder. Photo: Danny Murphy
Starting second on the road, Guest was fired up and caught Ordynski's V6 Commodore mid-way through the dusty stage - infamous as one of the 'horror stretches in the 1950s Redex and Mobilgas Trials. Co-driver Rod Salmon reportedly radioed to Ordynski and asked him to move over, but the Trial leader ignored rally etiquette, turned a deaf ear to the requests and the pair raced nose-to-tail for nearly 20km as Guest tried to overtake in the Holden's dust wake.
The Mitsubishi driver's moment came as they arrived at a property gate, and as Ordynski's co-driver Ross Runnalls swung open the gate, Guest and Salmon (in an equally unsporting move) drove through, and with an exchange of gestures, swooped ahead of the Commodore as Runnalls rebolted the gate.
Whether Guest's move was a deliberate tactic to unsettle the Trial leader or just simply youthful exuberance, it certainly did the trick as he was second fastest on the stage, one and half minutes ahead of Ordynski, narrowing the gap between the two to just over 21 minutes.
Moree's Peter Glennie was a surprise fastest on the stage in his LandCruiser, with Garland (now on his fourth gearbox) and Les Siviour equal third quickest. Steve Ashton continued his faultless event to date by taking fifth fastest. The Melbourne architect hadn't put a wheel wrong all event and was eagerly waiting for any problems the leading two cars might strike.
If Michael Guest was planning to win the Mobil 1 Trial with outright speed, his hopes took a tum for the worse on the final stage of the leg near Charters Towers. 40-year old Ordynski delivered a sobering lesson to the 20-year old Guest, as he set fastest time on the Mingella stage, virtually refunding the inroads that Guest had made during the day.
Guest's battered and bruised Galant VR4 dropped 29 seconds to Ordynski on the stage to finish the leg only 37 seconds closer to the lead than he had been at Mt Isa. At that rate, Guest needed to pull back one minute and 50 seconds on each one of the 13 stages remaining - a task highly unlikely unless the leading Commodore struck trouble.
The final 42 km stage produced few surprises, except that Terry Denham and Ray Stubbs moved their Pajero ahead of lan and Val Swan's Falcon Longreach ute to take eighth place.
Ordynski (Commodore) and Swan (Falcon) were now the only two-wheel drive vehicles in the top 10. Rowan Quill and Tony Wurf were back into the top 10 in their Galant after suspension problems on the way to Broome, while Richard Anderson's mighty Alfa had moved into 11th, just ahead of Jim Middleton's VR Commodore, Terry “Tangles" Connor in a Nissan Patrol and the leading Historic car, the 1968 Falcon GT of Terry Harris.
Media favourite Peter Brock was up to 28th place.
Ian and Val Swan put in a tremendous drive to finish inside the top 10 in their Falcon Ute. Photo: Stuart Bowes
Friday, June 30 to Saturday July 1Distance: 2020km, 10 stages totalling 390km
Info: The promised ‘sting in the tail'. A varied series of special stages down the coast, culminating in an intense final run into Brisbane through the superb rally country between Gympie and Brisbane.
Where you'll see them:
Townsville (start) 6am
Mackay Showgrounds 2pm
Rockhampton S'grounds 8.40pm
Brisbane (Parc Ferme) 2.02pm
With the end of the event almost in sight, there was a minor panic as Ordynski's Commodore was wheeled from a small garage after having the head changed, but there was now no need to worry about the problem, the same one that afflicted Dunkerton's similar car a few days earlier.
Ordynski made the start of the next special stage at Connor's Range on time and claimed the car was now purring. The South Australian was keen to get on with the job of defending his lead. Obviously he was more than happy with the car - the next special stage was proof of this as he proceeded to set the fastest time on the 36km forestry stage, beating Guest by 24 seconds and stretching his lead to slightly more than 20 minutes.
But the Ashtons also had the fire in their eyes and set third fastest time, but looked to be in a position where they could not substantially improve their placing. Bruce Garland was in fourth spot, some 37 minutes ahead of Peter Glennie's LandCruiser as they wound their way into Rockhampton for a three hour rest break.
The short break over, the circus started leaving the north Queensland town for the night trip south, with the Trial leaders still not giving any quarter. The action was electric as both Guest and Ordynski traded places with fastest stage times.
John Coker and Dennis Green finished 36th in this Mitsubishi Pajero. Photo: Stuart Bowes
Ordynski and Runnalls outpaced the Guest/Salmon combination on the first of the night's special stages at Builyan, south of Gladstone, a twisty 21km gravel stage that saw the Commodore 33 seconds quicker. Guest responded on the following 56km Brooweena stage west of Maryborough, demonstrating that he can still be devastatingly fast - this time superior by 59 seconds.
As dawn broke on the final Saturday morning the results board showed that Guest had pulled back 1m36s on Ordynski's 23min 11 sec lead, well short of the 2 minutes per stage that he so badly needed to catch the flying South Australian. Guest's only real choice was to maintain the pressure in the hope that Ordynski would be forced into a driving error, an unlikely scenario given his faultless run in the event so far.
With the action at the front still hot, Steve Ashton maintained his third spot over Bruce Garland/Harry Suzuki, but Terry Connor and Des Harrington lost a little time when they rolled their Nissan Patrol, coincidentally on the Connors Range stage. The vehicle was only slightly damaged in the incident, but had to continue on to the next service break minus a windscreen.
Also suffering a scare during the night stages were Challenge competitors Ken and Kim Harper whose Mustang hit a bank after they left the road on a transport stage from Eton Vale to Hidden Valley. Damaging the front suspension, they were able to make repairs, but were 23 minutes late arriving at the next control and had forfeited all chance of moving their car into second spot in the Challenge.
The gap between their car and the second placed Escort Twin Cam of Queenslanders Geoff Broad and David Abbott increased to 31 minutes as a result of this indiscretion. Broad and Abbott weren't without problems either, dropping 5 minutes on the Kalpower stage. The Ford trifecta was rounded off by the ex-Round Australia six cylinder Cortina of Victorians David Hodge and Tom Seymour, who had led the Challenge component since the outset.
Just outside the top three were another Victorian crew in a Subaru Leone station wagon, that of Geoff Nutter, Rick Wason and Doug Thomas. Not so fortunate were John and Gwenda White who rolled their Holden One Tonner on the Kalpower stage, damaging the roof and breaking the windscreen. Still continuing on with a podium finish in their sights were Helen Murphy and Kerrie Cheesman in their $600 HR Holden, which suffered gearbox problems in Arnhem Land.
With Ordynski having a seemingly unbeatable lead over Guest, the Mobil 1 Trial looked like being a foregone conclusion. But, in what could have been a script writer's dream, drama struck the frontrunner on Saturday afternoon just when victory for his Commodore seemed like being in the bag.
During the fourth-last stage in the Glasshouse Mountains, Ordynski and Runnalls had gearbox troubles and were forced to limp through most of the Bellthorpe stage in fourth gear. Fearing that their race may almost be run, they radioed through to their service crew to meet them at the end of the stage.
David Hills crossing a ford near Canberra in his Triumph 2.5. He finished 32nd. Photo: Stuart Bowes
After a frantic search, the service crew were able to find a small service station in Woodford where they set to work on the stricken car. Like a well oiled machine, the service crew changed the gearbox, serviced the car and fitted new tyres for the following stages in just 16 minutes. Ordynski was philosophical about the drama.
"You can't expect to cover nearly 19,000 km in an event like this without problems. But we'll make it to the finish even if we have to carry the car home on our backs," he said.
The net result of this drama was that the gap between he and Michael Guest's Mitsubishi VR4 was cut from over 23 minutes to just 9min 40seconds by the time the weary field arrived in Brisbane.
Guest's benefit was an inspiration to him as he sniffed a possible victory. Driving like only Guest can, he carved whole minutes off Ordynski's times on each successive stage, setting the pace between Townsville and Brisbane. Also on the pace for a final fling was Brock, running in 30th position, but revelling in the smooth gravel stages.
The Ashtons suffered a puncture and were anxiously looking in their mirrors for a fast approaching Garland, but still managed to hold on to their third spot. Not so lucky was Andy Stott whose Nissan Patrol blew an engine on the D’Aguilar stage, ending his chances of a sixth placing. Having come so far and performed so well, Stott and navigator Andrew Brown were bitterly disappointed and were relegated to a role of unwilling spectators.
LEG 12: Brisbane to Gold Coast
Sunday, July 2Info: One final short stage, which could well be crucial, just to keep crews under control on Saturday night. After regrouping, the survivors cross the finishing ramp at the Broadbeach Mall, outright winner last of all.
Where you'll see them:
Broadbeach (finish) 12pm
The class of Ed Ordynski shone through on the Round Australia. Photo: Stuart Bowes
The field arrived in Brisbane for the overnight halt, anxiously awaiting the final day's run to the Gold Coast which contained just one final special stage. Guest's chances of victory had all but expired - the task of taking a minute per kilometre from the leading Holden was an impossibility.
As it turned out, the VR4 pulled a mere 10 seconds off Ordynski's 10min 20sec lead, setting fastest time into the bargain. But it wasn't Guest at the wheel on the final stage. The honour of driving the final 11km went to Rod Salmon after a coin toss fell in Salmon's favour.
But as an indication that none of the leading contenders were prepared to take a risk on the aptly named "Fat Lady Sings" stage, fastest time went to the 7th placed Mitsubishi Pajero of Terry Denham and Ray Stubbs.
The final special stage control must have been a welcome sight for those who were listening for noises in their vehicles that could have ended their run so close to home. But in a wry touch of humour, the final control was adorned with an actual “fat lady" singing a verse of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' as cars arrived on Sunday afternoon.
All that remained was the transport stage down the coast to Broadbeach for a podium finish where the weary crews greeted the chequered flag with a mixture of relief and excitement.
It had been a long, hard 19 days – days that had seen the dreams and aspirations of 160 crews either dashed or come to fruition. Now it was the time for partying and the endless stories that would be told long into the night and the following day.
For Ordynski and Runnalls it was a sweet victory that surprised no-one but the uninformed general media. The South Australian's ability to stroke a car to the finish in the quickest possible time is now legendary, the only difference in this event is that Ordynski has had little experience in long distance events, let alone under outback driving conditions.
Ed Ordynski and Ross Runnalls celebrate their historic win in Brisbane.
He and navigator Ross Runnalls simply out-drove, out-paced and out-lasted all the other highly fancied crews in a superb drive to the finish, reaping the rewards from what is touted to be the last around Australia rally. That suggestion is something that only time can prove.
Michael Guest must at once be both the happiest and unhappiest man in rallying. So often the bridesmaid and never the bride, the Novacastrian carpet layer rightly deserved to win, but had to be content with second place in a car that many predicted would never last the distance. That it did last is a testimony to both the driving of he and car owner Rod Salmon, as well as to their approach to the event.
With a reputation as a driver who cracks under pressure, Guest went into the Mobil 1 with something to prove, and prove it he did. Apart from a few minor indiscretions, Guest drove superbly and proved in no uncertain manner that he has finally come of age.
Also putting in a determined challenge were Steve Ashton and Ro Nixon, finishing third in their Mitsubishi Lancer RS-E, thanks partially to the backup facilities provided by Dinta Officer's service crew after Officer retired his similar car Alice Springs. The Ashtons are experienced long distance competitors, having competed in the 1993 London-Sydney Marathon re-run, and used this experience to good effect in the Mobil 1.
A brace of heavy four-wheel drives, headed by Bruce Garland and Harry Suzuki's Jackeroo filled places 4, 5, 6 and 7, surprising no one but those who expected them to be further up the field by the finish. Peter Glenie/Peter Clark (Toyota Landcruiser) were fifth, Les Siviour and David Brown sixth and the Pajero of Terry Denham and Ray Stubbs seventh.
Round Australia rivals – Michael Guest and Ed Ordynski.
Another husband and wife team, that of lan and Val Swan, made it into a fighting eighth place courtesy of their Falcon XR6 Longreach utility and lots of determination. Despite last minute preparations prior to the start, their gamble with their vehicle choice and Ian's off-road experience really paid dividends.
Tony Wurf and Rowan Quill, early pacesetters in their Mitsubishi VR4, made it into ninth spot, while Queenslanders Richard Anderson and Bruno Fulcher brought their Alfa Romeo 75 V6 into a top ten finish also. A mere 23 minutes further in arrears were Commodore-mounted Jim Middleton and Phil Morley, also consistent runners in the top ten for the duration of the event.
There were no changes to the leader board in the Challenge class with David Hodge and Tom Seymour taking their Cortina over the line 20 minutes ahead of Geoff Broad and David Abbott in an Escort Twin Cam. Third, and the oldest driver in the event, was Ken Harper with son Kim in a Mustang, surviving an off-road excursion in the last days of the event.
Equal fourth were Berwick (Victoria) Subaru dealer Geoff Nutter and navigators Rick Wason and Doug Thomas in their Subaru station wagon, and the Holden Commodore team of Noel Delforce and Gary Smith.
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