Australian Rally History

by Tom Snooks
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1980 Australian Rally Championship

1980 Australian Rally Champions – George Fury, Monty Suffern and Datsun Stanza
1980 Australian Rally Champions – George Fury, Monty Suffern and Datsun Stanza.


Continuing their almost complete domination of major Australian rallies in the second half of the seventies the Total Oil Datsun Team convincingly won the 1980 Australian Rally Championship with George Fury, Monty Suffern and Datsun Stanza. It was the second championship for Fury and Suffern but more satisfying as they shared the title with teammates Ross Dunkerton and Jeff Beaumont in 1977. The team won all five championship events – three to Fury, one each to Dunkerton and Geoff Portman/Ross Runnalls (Stanza).

The title was the fifth in six years by Datsun (soon to be Nissan) and in that time it also won the Southern Cross International Rally in successive years, 1977 to 1980.

The 1980 series followed the by now familiar format with one round in each of the mainland states. The opening round was in Queensland, followed by West Australia, then New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia (at Broken Hill).

As had been the case since 1977 the chief protagonists for the 1980 series were the Datsun (now Nissan) and Ford works teams. The other factory backed team, Holden, never really sought to contest the series as a whole, and there was no one privateer who competed in all five rounds.

Datsun made its usual professional attack on the series, with two litre twin cam Stanzas for George Fury/Monty Suffern and Ross Dunkerton/Jeff Beaumont. A third twin cam car was made available for Geoff Portman/Ross Runnalls to run in the last two rounds under separate sponsorship. Between them the Datsun drivers won all five rounds.

By way of contrast the Ford team attack on the championship never really got running smoothly throughout the series. This was not a reflection on the team members but rather a result of the somewhat half-hearted support from Ford Australia, which was curtailing the sales of the Escort after 1980. The RS 1800 was used by Greg Carr/Fred Gocentas and Colin Bond/John Dawson-Damer. Carr had a disappointing year, with some form of mechanical problem in every round, usually when he was in the lead or close to it, and he only finished two events. On the other hand Bond was a model of consistency, finishing second in four events and fourth in the other event. Just how reliable Bond was can be seen by the fact that in four years with the Ford team he started in 16 championship events and finished every one of them – never worse that fifth.

The Holden team with its two Geminis did not make a concerted attack on the series and only contested three of the five rounds.

Amongst the privateers the ever present Clive Slater, with Barbara Stubbs, in his Toyota Corolla was the only competitor to tackle the whole series, contesting four rounds (from West Australia) but finished in only one (third in the first round). Tony Masling/Brian Hope ran their Datsun Stanza in three rounds, but mechanical problems kept the car out of points except for the opening round when he finished fourth. A number of other drivers attended two rounds.

By the end of 1980 thought was being given to the fact that with only five rounds in the championship the results of all round must be taken into account for the final score and a poor result cannot be dropped, and there be the need to start in all rounds. This requirement, taken with the traditional points score system of 9, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 for the top six placegetters effectively ruled out any worthwhile participation in the championship by privateers, although many did compete in their ‘home state’ round (which is often a round of the state championship). Added to this was the steeply spiraling cost of rallying in events strung out across the nation and participating in the series was a deterrent to all but the wealthiest privateer.


This document includes the summary, details of each of the five rounds of the 1980 ARC and is 7 pages in length. 

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