Australian Rally History

by Tom Snooks
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1978 Southern Cross Rally

14 – 18 OCTOBER 1978

Start: Sydney (Amaroo Park) – Finish: Port Macquarie

George Fury/Mont Suffern/DatsunStanza – from the 1979 regulations booklet



With the Datsun 710s of Rauno Aaltonen and Harry Kallstrom, together with Andrew Cowan in a VW Golf, at the head of the field, George Fury could have done it the hard way, but in fact, he won quite easily after a titanic tussle with Colin Bond for most of the event.

Fury, and navigator Monty Suffern, swept aside all opposition to bring their Datsun Stanza home to victory in the 1978 Travelodge Southern Cross International Rally. Leading from the second section and without being headed, they dominated the event and finished without any major mechanical failures.

Colin Bond, expected to be Fury’s main rival, experienced a few problems but nevertheless kept up the pace, but he and navigator John Dawson-Damer had to be content with second place after losing time on wrong roads and with several flat tyres.

Although Bond on occasions could take fastest time on a stage, Fury widened the gap gradually. As the rally neared its end Fury’s gearbox began to play up and he nursed the cars over the last few stages. But Bond, too, had his own troubles – the Escort’s differential wasn’t working properly and traction and handling became almost non-existent.

The Holden Dealer Team Gemini of Wayne Bell and George Shepheard came in third place after holding down second spot until the third night when some 12 minutes were lost after they mislaid a page from the road book! Four pages of a re-route instructions were issued by the organisers and apparently one sheet was missing. However, it was the competitors’ responsibility to check what they were given so there was no comeback.

Ross Dunkerton, with navigator Adrian Mortimer, came home fourth despite his Datsun Stanza having wheel bearing problems. Frank Neale and Phil Dodd, the first privateer crew home, were fifth in their 1800 twin cam Mitsubishi Lancer after a relatively trouble-free run.

Japanese Kanno and Yamauchi showed the Japanese drivers can do very well, finishing a fine sixth and seventh, then followed two Australian privateers, Ian Hill and Mike Bell. Mitsuo Ayabe rounded the top ten, to give three Japanese drivers the honour of being on the Top Ten Scoreboard.

The rally was characterised by dusty and fast conditions, together with a wet second night, and saw the top four favoured works crews retire early on. Defending Southern Cross winner Rauno Aaltonen dropped out on the first night with a blown engine, Andrew Cowan broke a half shaft in his Volkswagen Golf, Greg Carr’s Escort broke an axle and he also retired during the first night. Harry Kallstrom’s Stanza also blew its engine (second night). This left Fury, Bond, Bell and Dunkerton to fight it out for the top honour, which they did right to the end of the event.

Final Placings

1George FuryMonty SuffernDatsun Stanza1:25:17
2Colin BondJohn Dawson-DamerFord Escort RS18001:37:12
3Wayne BellGeorge ShepheardHolden Gemini1:58:32
4Ross DunkertonAdrian MortimerDatsun Stanza2:17:42
5Frank NealePhil DoddMitsubishi Lancer3:18:50
6Shigeru KannoKiyoshi KawamuraMitsubishi Lancer3:37:39
7Shinya YamauchiToshiaki FukaiToyota Levin3:38:10
8Ian HillAnn HeaneyMitsubishi Lancer4:00:06
9Mike BellPeter PattendenMitsubishi Lancer4:22:35
10Mitsuo AyabeMamoru NamikiToyota Levin4:33:16


Read about the 1978 Cross Rally in the document below.

1978 Southern Cross Rally