Australian Rally History

by Tom Snooks
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1980 Southern Cross Rally

18 – 22 OCTOBER 1980


Ross Dunkerton/Jeff Beaumont, Datsun Stanza
Winners of the last Southern Cross International Rally


Dunkerton’s and Beaumont’s victory gave the Nissan Rally Team its fourth win in a row in the prestigious event, bringing them close to the enviable record set by Mitsubishi when Andrew Cowan won five on end. Nissan’s effort was a wholly Australian one with all local drivers. The Team was again under the quiet control of manager Howard Marsden.

Second and third places went to Ford Australia crews running Escort RS1800s. Greg Carr/Fred Gocentas finished exactly three minutes behind Dunkerton, while Finnish star Ari Vatanen, with Dave Richards of England, a further 24 minutes down.

In fourth place, and first private crew home were Ian Hill and Anne Heaney in the Ford Escort RS2000, yet another fine result for them following their eighth place in 1978.

Victorian crew David Jones/Ian Pearson finished fifth in their Holden Commodore, an excellent result given this was Jones’ first Southern Cross International Rally, and the bigger car he drove; then came Westralians Frank Johnson/Steve van der Byl in their Mazda 323. An exponent in long distance rallies Johnson was only two minutes behind Jones and his position confirmed his fine fifth in 1979.

The 1980 Southern Cross International Rally was certainly not the longest or toughest in its 15 year history, but it was more dramatic than most. There were five different leaders at various times and the last night was packed with incident, including the blown engines of two of the leading Datsun team.

Dunkerton came from fourth on day one, to third on day two and was second going into the fourth and final division to take his first Southern Cross International Rally after many starts. It was a fairy tale victory for the multiple Australian Rally Champion as his consistently safe but at times spectacular driving suddenly handed him the rally lead towards the end of the event.

A highlight of the event was the appearance of Finnish and World Rally Championship superstar Ari Vatanen. Early on he took the lead and then Geoff Portman took over by the end of day two, only to relinquish it to Fury on day three. Fury set out to wrap up the event but he was stunned by an engine failure like that which occurred to Portman. Carr and Vatanen closed in for the kill but Dunkerton, driving furiously, held them off.

Final Placings

1Ross DunkertonJeff BeaumontDatsun Stanza836:26
2Greg CarrFred GocentasFord Escort RS 1800839.26
3Ari VatanenDavid RichardsFord Escort RS 1800863:29
4Ian HillAnn HeaneyFord Escort RS 2000898:52
5David JonesIan PearsonHolden Commodore933:22
6Frank JohnsonSteve Van Der BylMazda 323 Rotary935:33
7John BerneDavid PettiFord Escort RS 2000950:07
8Gordon LevenRob WilsonDatsun 1600 SSS964:34
9Graham ClarkArthur DavisDatsun 180B974:43
10Gary MeehanGregg GiffordToyota Celica977.36


More information about the 1980 Cross Rally in the document below.

1980 Southern Cross Rally