Mount Gambier to Renmark

While two of the three Sunday special stages had taken a few seconds off the leadings crews, they had basically presented few problems for the majority of competitors and in the absence of unforeseen touble, most time losses were in the minutes. After Mount Gambier, the run ostensibly up the Vic/SA border to Renmark would in some senses be more representative of the remainder of the event with some serious challenges in terms of the conditions, specifically mud and sand. While the leading crews would clean all these stages, time losses for many other crews started to run into hours rather than minutes, while the list of those missing controls grew considerably.

V10 - Myora Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
20.8 km20 minutes11.50 pm Sunday Click here

This short transport stage took crews straight out of Mount Gambier on the Glenelg Highway to the Vic/SA border.
Problems had emerged in Mount Gambier for the Escort of Ed Mulligan which needed repairs, losing 1 hour 42 minutes on the transport due to the late departure. That put them well down the field and not surprisingly, they subsequently lost an hour in the Bordertown bog. The Mazda R100 of Bill Johnston also had major dramas, departing Mount Gambier almost 3 hours late. They perservered to Bordertown but eventually skipped directly to Adelaide.

V11 - Introductory Trial Stage

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
13.6 km11 minutes12.01 am Monday Click here

Stewart McLeod had always wanted to run all the way along the Vic/SA border and this stage was the start of that pattern. Unfortunately much of the border has no trafficable road so there were lots of deviations before crews reached Renmark. This short stage followed the border for 10 km before kinking back into SA at Mil Lel. The first 5 km was flat chat gravel, then 1 km of fairly solid sand, then came 4 km of grassy muddy lane which would present a few problems for the later cars. The final part was gravel again.
While 45 cars cleaned, as the later cars attempted the stage the conditions deteriorated on the grassy lane with cars becoming bogged for various periods of time. After about 100 cars had been through the time penaties started to rise and the final few cars were entrenched for more than an hour. Herdy's Peugeot 504 took a maximum penalty of 4 hours and then skipped directly to Renmark.

V12 - Lynwood Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
9.9 km9 minutes12.10 am Monday Click here

This was another straightforward transport back into Victoria to the start of the next trial stage.
Charlie Lund dropped 4 minutes and some road position while the Wal Glass Torana, having lost almost an hour to Mil Lel, lost almost another hour and decided to cut and run to Adelaide.

V13 - Tarpeena Trial Stage

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
62.3 km50 minutes1.00 am Monday Click here

This stage was a continuation of Stewart McLeod's attempt to follow the Vic/SA border. In practice it initially ran along fairly good sand based tracks in a pine plantation before going through a series of grids and gates across a paddock on a road used previously in the 1976 George Derrick Memorial Trial. It then joined and followed the border north from the Casterton-Penola Road, which is initially a straight fast road, but degenerates in several places into a narrow track before emerging onto a main road at Wrattonbully where the stage ended. This was really a very good trial stage with a mixture of good gravel, sand, twisty grassy lanes and some farm tracks. As such, it was far more representative of the remainder of the event, albeit being rather wet. Nonetheless, there were few, if any places where conditions would deteriorate such as to cause later cars to become bogged.

A section of the border track towards the end of the stage
(Photo grabbed from Google Maps Street View)

The leading group continued to fly, although Mehta dropped 3 with navigator Lake complaing that there was an incorrect instruction. They had probably been passed by team mate Ferguson and the Fury Cortina. Stewart dropped 2 after apparently nudging a fence post. Both Porsches had problems, Herrmann dropping 12 and Barth 23, dropping them now back to around twentieth on the road. Gary Meehan hit a fence post early on and dropped 23. Nalder passed McCubbin, Watson and Mizel on the stage to move up just behind Perkins and the two Porsches on the road. Mick Ellis also continued to pass cars as did the Quills, locals in car 109. The second Audi of Behret dropped more time (9 minutes) and some more road position.
Further back, a loss of 30 minutes didn't look too bad but some struck trouble with 17 cars losing more than an hour and five skipping to the end of stage, thus taking the maximum 4 hour penalty. The Kuss Escort, well placed into Mount Gambier, struck problems and skipped to Bordertown. The Baumgartner Gemini retired when navigator Cyril Ostler broke his leg when he reportedly fell in a hole when opening a gate. The Cleworth Mini broke a transmission, changed it on the roadside (which is difficult in a Mini!) only to find a tooth still in there so they went to Mildura to change the engine and head directly to Adelaide, but then the gear box failed again so they had to replace it again in Adelaide. They eventually caught up with the rally again at Broken Hill!

Best times:

  • Cowan, Bond, Brock, Carr, Fury, Ferguson and Portman clean
  • Dunkerton and Sutton 1
  • Warmbold Stewart, Jensen, Perkins, Hodgson, Rowney, Miettunen and Ellis 2
  • Mehta, Mulligan, Faulkner, Nalder and Quill 3
  • Johnson and Loader 4
  • McCubbin, Lund and Alexander 5
  • Giddings 6
  • Colless, Mason, Lahiff 7
  • Davis, Watson, Roberts, Finlay, Leighton, Clarke 8
  • Behret 9
  • Bird, Harris, Kaitler 10
  • Taylor, Glennie, Coleman 11
  • Herrmann, Hilton, Stanle, Koseki 12
  • Jackson, Fritter, Maloney, Madgwick 13
  • Lockhart 15
  • Murray (Jack Milko) 16
  • Beveridge 17
  • Potter, Clyborne, Wallis, McArthur 18
  • Kahler, Enter, CLeaves, Feizaks 19
  • Murray (Gelignite Jack), Lloyd, Foden, Caddey 20

V14 - Wrattonbully "Transport"

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
105.7 km1 hour 4 minutes2.04 am Monday Click here

The run up to just outside Bordertown was always going to be tight with a 100 km/h average set. In fact it used a mixture of single track bitumen, fast gravel/dirt and a one section of grassy lane. It really shouldn't have been called a transport. The real problem arose on a dirt shire road near the end of the stage on which roadworks were being done and it was just glug. The road had quite a high crown and if you slipped off the top you just went down into the drains along each side. The only sensible approach was to go very slowly and avoid slipping off the crown. The edge of the road was so soft that it was possible to get very bogged, which many people did. One can only imagine what the Bordertown Shire Engineer thought when he saw the road the next day!
The first few cars had no real problems getting through although one of the challenges for many competitors is that because it was a designated a transport, the lead drivers were not at the wheel and in some cases the navigator was driving. Of course many navigators were very accomplished drivers in their own right, but some were not. Jim Reddiex in the Cowan Citroen caught the Carr Cortina which was perhaps being driven by Dave Morrow. The Citroen was probably the right car for such conditions with its front wheel drive whereas the Cortina was slewing from side to side. Cowan asked Reddiex whether he was going to pass but it would have been virtually impossible. Both cars made it on time, as did most of the first ten cars, except for Rowney who dropped 2 minutes.
Then it started to get a bit tricky with the clay road surface being churned into extremely slippery mud. Fury (perhaps Bonhomme driving?) was the first to strike trouble, sliding into the gutter and becoming bogged, but they got off lightly losing only 16. Dunkerton (perhaps not driving?) lost 7 minutes, probably tippy toeing through to not get bogged. Miettunen's Volvo lost 17 minutes whereas Barth got the Porsche 924 through unscathed and with no time lost, but teammate Herrmann had the 911 well off the road and deeply bogged, having perhaps attacked the road a bit too quickly. They ended up losing 46 minutes. Jackson had the Commodore stuck but not too badly and lost 28 minutes. Hilton's Celica became stuck briefly but he left his crew to walk out after being too scared to stop. He had to wait for them at the end of the bog and lost 38 minutes. The Nalder Celica (with Boyd driving) followed Hilton through but the crew rode on the back. They lost 14 minutes. Behind then, Hodgson lost 23 after navigator Mike Mitchell found a way around the bog, while Alexander had a reasonable run dropping only 9 minutes.
After about twenty cars had been through it was becoming really treacherous. Watson had the Peugeot stuck losing 54 minutes, McCubbin dropped 29 and the Lund RX7 was 58 minutes late. Mizel's Chevvy Blazer was next along and lost almost 2 hours, but they reportedly ran out of petrol and a crew member had to walk to get more. Behret's Audi lost almost 2 hours bogged. What happened to the Gil Davis 180B remains a bit of a mystery as the results show an unlikely clean sheet but the division total suggest they lost almost an hour. Much further down the field, the HR Holden of Lahiff also showed an unlikely cleansheet but the division total suggests that perhaps they lost 23 minutes.

The O'Shanesy Fiat stuck in the Bordertown bog
(Photo courtesy of Ray Berghouse, Chevron Publishing)

As the night wore on, the road easement south of Bordertown became filled with cars bogged up to their eyeballs and time losses started to run into hours. Some crews were not actually bogged but were held up for long periods by other bogged cars. Others left the road and took to paddocks to try to avoid the bog, but this was usually futile. The great run of Mick Ellis came to an end when he lost an hour and he should never have been so far down the field. Similarly the good run of the Giddings 200B came to an end with almost 2 hours lost and they subsequently short cut to Adelaide. An enterprising local farmer started to make quite a bit of cash by pulling people out with his tractor. The all-girl O'Shanesy Fiat was inextricably bogged but when Tholstrup came long in his Chevvy Pickup he pulled them out but they still cut and ran to Adelaide. By dawn there were still cars bogged and a local farmer with a huge tractor was making a small fortune towing cars through. A total of 34 cars would either take the 4 hour maximum penalty or miss the end control altogether. Many were either out of late time or out of energy or both, skipping directly to either Renmark or Adelaide. These included the Fullagher family of four in the Monaro, who with little or no rallying experience, must have been quite shell shocked.

The road next morning (Photo courtesy of Graham Wallis)

It is fair to say that this stage was "the" most critical stage of the division, and a nominated transport stage at that! For many of the leading crews, the time lost here was the bulk of their loss for the entire division and the outright placing at Adelaide were mostly dependent upon how much time was lost at Bordertown. Some quite fancied crews lost so much time that it literally ruined their event as they were never able to recover road position to get back into the running for outright positions. Those who spent hours bogged at Bordertown in many cases then had to skip controls and that meant the effective end of any chance to place well overall. It remains a mystery as to why the organisers allowed this to happen. Most likely the road was just fine when surveyed many months earlier and in all probability no-one even travelled along it in front of the field, or if they did, they perhaps lacked the experience to see that this was going to be such a catastrophe!

V15 - Bordertown Service Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
94.5 km
140 km
1 hour 15 minutes
2 hours 30 minutes
3.19 am Monday
4.34 am Monday
Click here

It was not much of a surprise that at Bordertown crews were instructed to proceed directly to Pinnaroo, with the Moonlight Mud Trial Stage (V16) through the Big Desert being cancelled due to the wet conditions. It was almost certainly not the organisers' concern for competitors but that the local shire would have withdrawn approval to use the road.
The many crews that had been bogged before Bordertown slowly emerged, licking their wounds and trying to clear the great clumps of sticky mud from the wheel arches of their cars. The single hose at the servo was in great demand! Others continued to Pinnaroo before embarking on the cleaning job, while others took the opportunity to grab some food and coffee. Although the transport was very liberal on time so that the event would be back on schedule at Pinnaroo, some crews lost time as they worked to get their cars back into running condition.

Daylight at the Bordertown service station (Photo courtesy of Graham Wallis)

John Miettunen's Volvo had mechanical issues here and lost more than an hour as well as crucial road position such that they then became baulked in the Sunset Country losing another hour. Graham Alexander's run came to an end at Pinnaroo when reportedly engine trouble stopped the Escort, as did the Goss Landcruiser which caught on fire and was destroyed.

V17 - Panitya Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
5.2 km20 minutes4.54 am Monday Click here

This short 5 km transport took crews from where the deleted Big Desert stage would have finished, across the Mallee Highway and up the border track a few kms past a farm house. It included 15 minutes for service but most crews had taken service in Pinnaroo on the previous transport. Thus, it was an opportunity for later crews to regain some late running time by booking in early. Beveridge and Minett skipped the control and headed straight to the end, taking a wrong direction, perhaps because they were out of late time limit at Control V17 (an additional 2 hours late time was available at Control V18).

V18 - Mallee Root Trial Stage

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
139 km2 hours 20 minutes7.14 am Monday Click here

Portman reaches the end of the Sunset Country Stage
(Photo grabbed from ABC Sport video)

Again, this was Stewart McLeod's attempt to follow the Vic/SA border, which the stage mostly did but for two diversions into Victoria, where there is no trafficable border track! After the first diversion a passage control ensured crews returned to the border. Much of the border track and other roads in the Sunset Country are quite sandy and with such a large field of cars, there was always going to be some mayhem. It remains something of a mystery why the organisers set such a slow average speed of only 60 km/h which meant that the fastest cars were up to half an hour early and 26 cars cleaned. Why not simply provide greater late time, as there was an adequate hold in Renmark to allow the field to regroup? Additionally, the organisers set a maximum time penalty on the stage of 1 hour, although missing the passage control and/or entering the end control from the wrong direction would still gain the 4 hours maximum penalty.
The first group of cars completed this stage in darkness with the first car arriving at the end control on the Vic/SA border east of Renmark at dawn (7 am) Monday morning. The sandy tracks were not too bad given the damp conditions but there were several dunes to be climbed, especially on the second diversion into Victoria. Among the leaders, Cowan discovered here that the front wheel drive Citroen won't climb sand dunes and he lost about 22 minutes. The narrow tracks were such that a bogged car was difficult to pass and so following cars mostly had to wait, but Cowan was certainly passed by quite a few cars, including Perkins who took to the scrub in his modified VW. Warmbold faced similar problems in the front wheel drive Audi and dropped 21 minutes.
Further back the conditions started to deteriorate with deep ruts and horribly corrugated sandy tracks that would shake a car apart. After about 25 cars had been through most cars would require the assistance of 4WD vehicles or other locals to tow them through the worst stretches. At least it was daylight for them, and indeed the rain had stopped as well, which always raises spirits, even when you are bogged! In the end about 80 cars completed the stage with 17 cars taking the 1 hour maximum penalty. Quite a lot of cars short cut the section either missing the passage control and/or entering the end control from the wrong direction.

Times under the 1 hour maximum:

  • Herrmann, Mehta, Bond, Brock, Dunkerton, Barth, Carr, Mizel, Fury, Ferguson, Portman, Davis, Jensen, Perkins, Mulligan, Johnson, Rowney, Sutton, Hilton, Loader, Faulkner, Milko Murray, Walsh, Nalder, Mason, Richardson clean
  • Hodgson and Barth 4
  • Ellis 5
  • Watson 6
  • Stewart 8
  • Colless, Hurrey 10
  • Gelignite Jack Murray 11
  • Roberts 13
  • Tholstrup 14
  • Jackson 18
  • Warmbold, McCubbin 21
  • Cowan 22
  • Leighton 23
  • Enter, Travis 26
  • Larkin 29
  • Maloney 32
  • Tucker 33
  • Suth 35
  • Glennie 36
  • Lund 38
  • Penny, Glover 39
  • Quill, Ingerson 43
  • Sheridan 44
  • Taylor 48
  • Clarke 50
  • Lloyd 53
  • Meehan 54
  • Kuss 57
  • Miettunen, Foden, Corr 58
  • Nicholson 59

Charlie Lund being towed through deep sand on the Sunset Country Stage
(Photo grabbed from ABC Sport video)

V19 - Renmark Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
26.6 km25 minutes<7.39 am Monday Click here

This was a straightforward run into Renmark where there was a scheduled 3 hour "breakfast" break with the first car not departing until 11.00 am.

The run from Mount Gambier had been a rude awakening for many competitors but sadly, road position had played a big part in the outcome with later runners facing badly deteriorated road conditions. It also seemed perverse that the results to this point had been so dependent upon crews' fortunes on what was billed as a transport stage!

The top few positions had not changed since Mount Gambier but certainly Cowan had dropped back and Ellis was largely out of contention. Times under 2 hours lost were:

  1. Portman/Thompson/Hammond (Stanza) 0.14
  2. Carr/Morrow/Gocentas (Cortina) 0.26
  3. Brock/Philip/Richards (Commodore) 1.15
  4. Ferguson/Bell/Boddy (Commodore) 2.32
  5. Bond/Riley/Dawson-Damer (Cortina) 3.15
  6. Sutton/Williams/Brock (Datsun 1600) 4.38
  7. Mehta/Aaltonen/Lake (Commodore) 5.33
  8. Perkins/Perkins (VW Beetle) 9.52
  9. Johnson/Vaderbyl (Volvo 242) 9.59
  10. Rowney/Wilson/Tyson (Datsun 180B) 10.42
  11. Dunkerton/McKay/Jones (Volvo 244) 13.34
  12. Stewart/Parry (Commodore) 14.47
  13. Jensen/Johnson/Wellington (Volvo 242) 18.59
  14. Fury/Bonhomme/Suffern (Cortina) 21.08
  15. Nalder/Richards/Boyd (Celica) 21.46
  16. Cowan/Reddiex/Beaumont (Citron CX) 24.33
  17. Warmbold/Willemsen/Schleuter (Audi 100SE) 30.22
  18. Mason/Hicks/Horley (Commodre) 31.54
  19. Barth/Kushmaul (Porsche 924) 33.09
  20. Hodgson/Houghton/Mitchell (Falcon) 43.21
  21. Hilton/Bourke/Pattenden (Celica) 58.02
  22. Loader/Hill/Neale (Lancer) 59.35
  23. Hurrey/Geddes (Celica) 1.02.45 (some doubt about score)
  24. McCubbin/Kelly/Guyatt (Monaro GTS) 1.05.44
  25. Herrmann/Rainsford (Porsche 911) 1.08.28
  26. Faulkner/de Vaus/Bateson (Peugeot 504) 1.10.27
  27. Ellis/Wall (Datsun 120Y) 1.12.36
  28. Jackson/West/Jackson (Commodore) 1.14.13
  29. Maloney/Vitnel/Daley (Leyland P76) 1.14.27
  30. Leighton/Mason/Cohn (Datsun 1600) 1.14.51
  31. Davis/Eather/Toner (Datsun 180B) 1.17.01 (some doubt about score)
  32. Watson/Harrowfield (Peugeot 505 Diesel) 1.18.37
  33. Meehan/Gifford/Gardiner (Monaro GTS) 1.28.29
  34. Quill/Quill/Ellis (Commodore) 1.34.07
  35. Lahiff/Beath/Clarke (HR Holden) 1.34.21 (possibly 23 minutes more)
  36. Glennie/Shaw/Amos (Stanza) 1.40.01
  37. Roberts/Waterson/Carrol (Commodore) 1.56.34
  38. Colless/Johnston/McCoy (Datsun 1600) 1.58.53

A total of 92 cars had visited all controls to Renmark but as many as twenty of them had not actually covered the entire route, either missing passage controls or entering controls from the wrong direction. So the run up from Mount Gambier had inflicted carnage on the field with about sixty cars failing to complete the route!

Next: Renmark to Adelaide


Ian Richards said...

Wes drove all the stages from Mount Gambier to Renmark. I was going to drive the Big Desert stage but it was cancelled. Geoff and I shared the driving on the transports.
The Tarpeena Trial stage was enjoyable, even from the back seat, and despite the wet conditions, was not going to present too many problems for later cars. Having passed Alexander and Lund in the Heywood stage, we must have been thirtieth on the road. Somewhere in the early part we passed a car (maybe Meehan?) that looked like it had hit a fence post. We followed a Monaro (probably Car 70 – Ian McCubbin) through the section of gates to the Casterton Road but could not pass him. Then on the dead straight section of the border road we came up behind a slower car with a lot of spray and got past, only then realising that it was Watson and Harrowfield in the Peugeot. We were by no means fast with a top speed of just over 150 km/h, but they were even slower. On the sandy track north of the Penola-Dergholm road we passed the Monaro and the Chevy Blazer of Steve Mizel (Car 12). We were perhaps up to position 26 on the road.
Geoff drove the infamous Bordertown transport with me navigating to give Wes a rest in the back. I knew it would be tight and was watching the average speed, given that Geoff was not pushing it. This turned out to be both a positive and a negative. Negative in that we lost a few more minutes but positive in that because we weren’t pushing we didn’t race headlong into the boggy road but instead took our time and carefully negotiated the mud. It was also helped by the fact that I missed the bear right onto the boggy road so we had to stop anyway and immediately saw the lights of cars down the road that indicated trouble. In fact Wes and I both got out of the car and basically walked beside it pushing the back whenever it threatened to slide off the crown of the road. Even by then there were quite a few cars stuck. Herrmann was off the side very bogged and Jackson’s Commodore (Car 47) was stuck but not too badly. We came up behind Brian Hilton’s crew but he had driven ahead a bit so at the end of the boggy section he had to wait for them so we passed him also. While we lost 14 minutes, we were 19th car into control.
While we needed a bit of a washdown at Bordertown it was nothing like some cars which needed full use of a pressure cleaner. I drove up to Pinnaroo with both Wes and Geoff asleep.
Wes drove the Sunset Country stage which was largely uneventful as we had done much of it during our practice run some weeks before the event. It was a lot different though with the 17 or so cars ahead of us already leaving deep ruts and making horrendous corrugations. I can only imagine what it was like for later cars. On the sandy section on the second deviation into Victoria we caught Warmbold who couldn’t get the front wheel drive Audi up the dunes. There was little choice but to wait as to go off the track would have certainly gotten us bogged. A local 4WD was there to help and pulled Warmbold through but we followed and never got stuck ourselves. This happened a second time a little further on and we had to wait 5 minutes while Warmbold got towed through, but we could see that we were going to make it on time so we didn’t need to panic. Warmbold sped off and we didn’t see him again but I think he lost over 20 minutes on the stage. We cleaned it without having to push too hard. The biggest problem was the rising sun in our eyes on a couple of sections. We even stopped to meet our service crew at the turn-right east of Meribah which we had pre-arranged. In the end we were about 8 minutes early.
At Renmark we changed rear shockers but nothing else. The car was running like a dream. The scoring at Renmark was dubious (as it was throughout the event!) but we seemed to be somewhere around fifteenth outright, which was most satisfactory from our viewpoint.

Unknown said...

Hi, Greg Gifford here.
Navigator from car 57 Monaro GTS (Meehan,Gifford,Gardner).

The Bordertown transport..... yes I remember that one. The back of the car was slipping from one side to the other but somehow Gary Meehan kept the front wheels on the crest of the road, we had a few close calls where we almost hit bogged cars with crew members eyes lighting up in the lights like startled rabbits!!! The LSD diff developed a whine after this workout and it stayed with us all the way to the finish.
After Renmark we were happy to be running in the top 30 or so but then our problems began.
I think in V21 - Murray Flats Trial Stage we broke the front windscreen (more on this later) and we did have to stop and repair the rear axle housing which was sliding backwards and forwards along the leaf spring on the passengers side. We'd sheared the centering bolt and had to "rat" a bolt from the car somewhere!! Anyway this fixed us till we got to Adelaide.
Also I remember we stopped to help push the Celica of Brian Hilton out of a bog and then later when we were stuck in sand he just honked and waved!!! We weren't too impressed with that but he did apologise later saying he couldn't stop as he feared he would be stuck too.
This leads me into this story (re stuck in the sand). We were down to the floor pan in the sand, bogged like a beauty. I suggested we use our sand ramps (which were our rear bumper as well) I was voted down and so while Gary and Ken winched all the available "bushes" to the front of the car, I set about digging the sand out from in front of the rear wheels and pushed our sand ramps down. "Come on Gary, give this ago". Gary hopped in grumbling about our chances. Ready... GO Ken and I fell on our faces while starting to push, the car launched it self up the ramps like a dragster taking off the line!!! Then Ken and I had to grab the sand ramps and run after the car as Gary wouldn't stop till he hit some firmer ground.
We were Happy to get to Adelaide and in 31st.