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South Australia’s Mt Crawford Forest has long been the home of Australian Championship Rallying in that state, with the area being a firm favourite for spectators and rally competitors alike.

Thirty years ago in 1977, the Endrust Rally was SA’s round of the Australian Championship and saw some top class action between the leading crews of the era.

The following report from “Australian Motor Racing Year” gives us an indication of just how competitive the championship was, with five works-supported cars followed home by the privateer Galant of Bob Riley and Brian Hope. The cars, the crews and the conditions may have changed in the last 30 years, but the spectacle of rally cars roaring through South Australian forests certainly hasn’t.

“With any one of four drivers in a position to take out the Australian Championship, the Endrust Forest Rally in South Australia was certain to be a big spectator drawcard. It was not only an International event but also attracted the best field of any ARC round of the year.

The four title contenders were Ross Dunkerton in the Gerry Ball Tuning Datsun 710, George Fury in the Nissan Team’s similar car, Greg Carr in the works Escort (RS2000), and Doug Stewart in the factory-backed Lancer GSR. Also there with a slim chance for the title, was Dave Morrow in the HDT Gemini. Others to star in the field were Kenjiro Shinozuka in a Lancer, Colin Bond (making a return to the rally scene in the second of Ford’s new team cars), Bob Riley in the 2 litre Galant, Dean Rainsford in the Saab, and Ed Mulligan in his Datsun 1600.

The organizers of the Endrust had gone to great lengths to come up with a new format. There were three divisions, the first on Saturday afternoon and the third on the Sunday were run through previously unused state forests near Adelaide and came complete with live TV coverage on both days.

The second division on Saturday night was run in the more traditional format along the straight bush roads west of Adelaide. With so much talent around, the pace was on right from the start as the stars battled it out in daylight over the sandy tracks of the Mt Crawford forest, with all stages timed to the quarter minute.

An estimated 7000 spectators lined the rally route on both afternoons. By the end of the first division Carr had gone into a narrow lead over Fury with Morrow in third. They were followed by Riley, Bond, Dunkerton and Shinozuka. Mulligan was out after re-arranging his front end on a large rock, and several crews, including Morrow and Shepheard, had lost time after bogging in sandy stretches. Although basically non-competitive, with many ‘cleanable’ stages, the Saturday night division had a profound effect on the results.

On the longest stage, 104 kilometres over a variety of tracks, many cars were hampered by the dust and missed a vital instruction. Hardest hit was the leading Escort, which lost 12 minutes on the stage, and any chance of taking out the rally and the title. Rainsford had problems of a different sort, as his jack collapsed while changing a tyre, and Riley lost second gear in his Galant but elected to continue.

As a result of Carr’s problem and their own good teamwork, Fury and Monty Suffern started the final short division on the Sunday with a handy lead. Dunkerton was the closest of the others, followed by Morrow. With Fury seemingly assured of winning the title, the big question was whether Dunkerton could hold onto his second place for the rest of the rally and thus finish top of the series with his fellow Datsun driver.

Despite Morrow’s best efforts he was unable to pull back the Datsun and for the first time the Australian title ended in an unbreakable tie. Morrow took a creditable third in the rally while Bond showed that he was by no means a spent force by coming fourth, less than a minute ahead of Carr.

Despite his gearbox problems, Riley held on to take sixth in the rally, which wound up one of the most exciting and successful  Australian rally series ever held.”

Results:
1. George Fury/Monty Suffern, Datsun 710, 34.25 points
2. Ross Dunkerto/Jeff Beaumont, Datsun 710, 38.25
3. Dave Morrow/George Shepheard, Holden Gemini, 41.30
4. Colin Bond/John Dawson-Damer, Escort RS2000, 44.30
5. Greg Carr/Fred Gocentas, Escort RS2000, 45.25

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