Coober Pedy to Immarna

The day’s run down to the edge of the Nullarbor was fairly low key although the trial stage from Tarcoola to Immarna was not without its challenges, with the sand dunes once again presenting problems for Cowan and many of the later runners. The overall positions did not change a great deal except for the Mehta Commodore which was delayed by a loose strut. A number of unsuspecting crews had short cut from Broken Hill to Kingoonya only to encounter another challenging stage that left them in a location where they really had no choice but to continue onto the Nullarbor in darkness.

S12 – Stuart Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
280.0 km3 hours 10 minutes9.40 am Wednesday Click here

The Coober Pedy Refuel
(Photo: Ian Richards)

After refuelling in Coober Pedy, the run down the “old” Stuart Highway to Kingoonya was straightforward enough, albeit rather rough and corrugated. No route chart was either provided nor necessary, just a rough map. The stage seemed to be a late addition to the route after the deletion of the more challenging trial stage that was to pass through Billa Kalina and Mount Eba.
Pretty much everyone was on time, although the Lance Commodore and Maloney P76 lost 17 and 18 minutes respectively, and the Lahiff Holden HR 4 minutes, presumably with problems that needed to be attended to back in Coober Pedy or along the way.

The Barth/Kushmaul checks into Kingoonya behind the cutting-and-running Suth/Gros/Suth VW Beetle
The Loader/Hill/Neale Lancer is leaving the control in the background
(Photo courtesy of Ray Berghouse - Chevron Publishing)

Kingoonya saw the first serous instances of cars cutting and running and being allowed to run ahead of cars that had completed the whole route. Those who had cut-and-run to Kingoonya from Broken Hill included Suth, Glover, Spanbroek, Stanley, Boaden, Hayden, Jones and the Fullagher family. Nicholson and Hargrave had skipped from Blinman to Kingoony, Wallis from Marree, and Barnes rejoined essentially from Adelaide. Little did they all know that the two stages to Nullarbor would prove to be among the toughest in the whole event!

S13 – Tarcoola Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
87.3 km1 hour 15 minutes10.55 am Wednesday Click here

This transport officially included 20 minutes for refuelling and service. The officials at Kingoonya allowed cars to leave the control after arriving early so that most crews would have got at least half an hour’s service break for refuelling and servicing around the corner in the township. It was a fine sunny day and Greg Carr must have been relieved as the diff was failing on the Cortina (or perhaps the rear axle housing was cracked?) and required replacing but with no time lost. Dunkerton also needed work with a loose alternator and, of course, changes of shock absorbers. Ferguson's Commodore needed a replacement strut with the Commodores all revealing minor problems with loosening strut retaining rings.

The Nalder Celica gets new rear shockers at Kingoonya
(Photo courtesy Hal Maloney collection)

Those requiring extra service time in Kingoonya lost time on this transport. These included the Lance Commodore (43 minutes late), the Maloney P76 (1 hour 41 minutes late) and the Lahiff Holden HR (11 minutes) who had all lost time on the previous transport. Also requiring extra service time was the Mizel Chevvy (59 minutes late), the Ellis Datsun 1600 (27 minutes), Miettunen's Volvo (31 minutes), the Giddings 200B (32 minutes), the all-girl O'Shanesy Fiat (38 minutes), the Minett Datsun 1600 (48 minutes), the Kuss Escort (49 minutes). The Penny Torana took the opportunity to book in 10 minutes early to gain some late time. A number of crews that went to the Tarcoola control decided to backtrack to Kingoonya and take the "easy" route around to Nullarbor, dropping the control at Immarna. These included Lance, Minett and O'Shanesy who all actually then followed the bitumen all the way to Perth, although O'Shanesy picked up a few controls along the way without actually completing any competitive stages.
The continuing transport stage took crews west on fairly good gravel roads past the small town of Tarcoola to the start of the day’s only trial stage. The route followed the railway, crossing it six times and finished close to where the new Ghan line diverges from the Transcontinental Railway.

S14 – Railway Run Trial Stage

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
239.5 km2 hours 25 minutes1.20 pm Wednesday Click here

This stage mostly along the north side the transcontinental railway to Immarna looked tight with a 90 km/h average. A reasonable gravel and dirt track allowed quite high speeds despite a few dips and washaways which caught out a few, including Shekar Mehta who stopped early in the stage to investigate a rattle and subsequently stopping for more than 20 minutes to tighten a loose strut. At 96 km the route bypassed the settlement of Wynbring by taking to a vestigial track and soon after the main track became more twisty and sandy. From about 140 km through to Barton Siding at 189 km was quite sandy with a number of dunes that required a fair bit of speed to get up them and it was in here that Cowan again lost some time. At Barton there is a siding perpendicular to the main line and the road turns right, heading north for about 500 metres before doing a hairpin left around the end of the siding to return to the main line. Soon after the track crosses back to the south side of the line where it stays until Immarna. The last part of the stage was reasonable albeit with more dips and washaways where Cowan, as if he didn’t have enough challenges, punctured.
Only the six leaders cleaned and after that the times started to climb steadily. Cowan passed Nalder then became stuck for a while and held up Nalder but then punctured and let the Celica back through. Stewart and Fury were both flying and passed Nalder, Cowan and the stopped Mehta. The Loader/Hill Lancer had a head on collision with a local in a National Railways Landcruiser but somehow survived with considerable damage, including a broken windscreen and side window. After perhaps twenty cars the sand became very rutted and more and more cars were getting stuck on the sand dunes. There were no 4WDs posted at these dunes so crews had to help each other or winch. About 32 cars completed the stage with a loss under an hour, a further 22 with losses between 1 and 2 hours and another 13 with losses over 2 hours. The Herrmann 911 must have been very stuck as they lost over 2 hours with Rainsford quoted as saying that the Porsche just couldn't cope with the sand. Although the early cars arrived at Immarna mid afternoon, some of these later cars would have been in the sand in darkness.

Fastest times:

  • Bond, Brock, Carr, Ferguson, Portman, Johnson clean
  • Stewart, Rowney 7
  • Fury 11
  • Cowan, Jackson and Nalder (Richards) 18
  • Mizel 22
  • Barth 23
  • Davis 25
  • Mehta, Loader 28
  • Roberts 31
  • Mason 32
  • Dunkerton 34
  • Giddings 36
  • Clarke 37
  • Warmbold, Beveridge 38
  • Hilton, Lockhart 43
  • Faulkner 47
  • Finlay, Lund, Quill 48
  • Jensen 53
  • McCubbin 59
  • Murray (Gelignite Jack), Glennie 1.01
  • Watson 1.03
  • Hurrey, Sheridan 1,04
  • Taylor 1.05
  • Maloney 1.07

The "field" held at Immarna waiting for the fuel tanker
(Photo grabbed from the ABC Sport video)

At Immarna there was meant to be a fuel tanker so that cars could make it to the Nullarbor Roadhouse, a further 260 km and a total of 567 km from the Kingoonya refuel. Unfortunately the tanker had not arrived and locals were selling small quantities of fuel at inflated prices. The officials decided to hold the field, the first car having arrived pretty much on schedule around 1.30 pm, but by 4 pm they decided they could wait no longer and gave crews the option of going or waiting for the tanker. Pretty much no-one waited but the leading crews had at least had a couple of hours of unscheduled rest! It also compressed the field again. The running order out of Immarma was probably Portman, Ferguson, Bond, Brock, Carr, Johnson, Sutton (?), Fury, Nalder, Cowan, Mehta, Hodgson (?), then probably the Commodores of Jackson and Mason, the Davis 180B, Warmbold's Audi, Dunkerton's Volvo and the Loader/Hill Lancer.

Another view of Immarna
(Photo: Ian Richards)

It is interesting to look at the outright positions at Immarna because things changed so dramatically on the next stage to Nullarbor. The results showed 46 cars having visited all controls at this stage but Hodgson and Sutton were still in the top 20 also. Obviously the first six places hadn't changed since Marree as none of them had lost any time, but Stewart, Fury and Rowney had gained places on the run to Immarna. Lance had dropped from the list.

  1. Portman/Thompson/Hammond (Stanza) 15.53
  2. Bond/Riley/Dawson-Damer (Cortina) 18.23
  3. Ferguson/Bell/Boddy (Commodore) 21.18
  4. Brock/Philip/Richards (Commodore) 26.45
  5. Carr/Morrow/Gocentas (Cortina) 27.44
  6. Johnson/Vaderbyl (Volvo 242) 36.00
  7. Stewart/Parry (Commodore) 1.12.28
  8. Sutton/Williams/Brock (Datsun 1600) score not known
  9. Mehta/Aaltonen/Lake (Commodore) 1.13.12
  10. Fury/Bonhomme/Suffern (Cortina) 1.17.15
  11. Rowney/Wilson/Tyson (Datsun 180B)1.18.39
  12. Cowan/Reddiex/Beaumont (Citroen CX) 1.20.03
  13. Nalder/Richards/Boyd (Celica) 1.25.38
  14. Dunkerton/McKay/Jones (Volvo 244) 1.50.47
  15. Warmbold/Willemsen/Schleuter (Audi 100SE) 1.53.15
  16. Barth/Kushmaul(Porsche 924) 2.08.10
  17. Mason/Hicks/Horley (Commodore) 2.11.13
  18. Hodgson/Houghton/Mitchell (Falcon) score not known
  19. Loader/Hill/Neale (Lancer) 2.44.38
  20. Jensen/Johnson/Wellington (Volvo 242) 2.48.46
  21. Davis/Eather/Toner (Datsun 180B) 2.52.54
  22. Jackson/West/Jackson (Commodore) 3.19.06
  23. Hilton/Bourke/Pattenden (Celica) 3.23.07
  24. Hurrey/Geddes (Celica) 3.42.46
  25. Watson/Harrowfield (Peugeot 505 Diesel) 3.49.49
  26. Quill/Quill/Ellis (Commodore) 3.55.37
  27. Herrmann/Rainsford (Porsche 911) 4.08.13
  28. Roberts/Waterson/Carrol (Commodore 4.13.33
  29. Faulkner/de Vaus/Bateson (Peugeot 504) 4.42.35
  30. Clarke/Davis/Burge (Datsun 180B)5.19.34
  31. Glennie/Shaw/Amos (Stanza) 5.34.45
  32. McCubbin/Kelly/Guyatt (Monaro GTS) 5.38.45
  33. Mizel/Hall/Fricker/Mortimer (Chevy Blazer) 5.42.58
  34. Lund/Elliott (Mazda RX7) 5.46.06
  35. Enter/Enter (Galant) 5.55.07
  36. Maloney/Vitnel/Daley (Leyland P76) 6.05.00
  37. Sheridan/Reid (Datsun 1600) 6.26.02
  38. Miettunen/Morgan/Suominen (Volvo 244) 6.27.42
  39. Lloyd/Crockenberg/Dick (Colt)6.30.51
  40. Murray ('Gelignite' Jack)/D'Albora/Murray (Commodore) 6.45.12
  41. Taylor/Hunt (Rover 3500) 7.09.54
  42. Finlay/Sullivan/McLeod (Commodore) 7.16.15
  43. Koseki/Takaoka (Subaru Leone) 7.28.04
  44. Pittaway/Boston (XY Ford Ute) 8.12.42
  45. Lahiff/Beath/Clarke (HR Holden) 9.10.29
  46. Penny/Kennard/Brown (LH Torana) 10.22.00
  47. Corr/McKimmie/Johansson (Saab) 11.05.09
  48. Birrell/Smith/Nixon (Renault 16TS) 14.09.43

Next: Immarna to Coolgardie


Ian Richards said...

Wes drove down to Kingoonya while Geoff had his first real sleep in the back and I dozed in the navigator’s seat. Cowan’s Citroen passed us at one stage going rather quickly with Jim Reddiex driving and threw a big rock at us cracking the windscreen. With 15 minutes early into Kingoonya plus the allotted service time we had a good half hour and Dick and Steve checked the car over, changing the rear shocks again. We put in a third spare tyre for the run across the Nullabor. The service guys already looked stuffed having driven much of the night from Frome Downs to Kingoonya with a long a difficult drive down past Lake Everard before hitting the bitumen highway all the way to Perth. Geoff drove out to Tarcoola where I jumped into the drivers seat for the Immarna Trial Stage.
Cowan passed us after about 50 km, going quite quickly in the rougher parts, and we wondered whether we were going a bit too easy. Then we came across Mehta stopped with something broken (it was a loose strut) and felt we were setting the right pace. Somewhere around Mount Christie Doug Stewart passed us also going a bit harder than our pace. The dunes started from about 140 km and at the first fairly long one we found Cowan bogged on top but we couldn’t get around him. We reversed back and had another go so that with enough speed we could get out of the ruts and around him. About 10 km later Cowan passed us again and each dune we waited to see if he would baulk us again, but he didn’t. Instead he punctured and we passed him that way! Fury caught and passed us just before the control with Mehta and Cowan arriving in quick succession soon after. Given that we had dropped 18, we were surprised that the two leading Commodores, two leading Cortina, Portman and the Johnson Volvo had cleaned – they must have been pushing very hard in the rough stuff. We were just trying to find the right pace but the event was now starting to get serious with big time gaps becoming more common, and we needed to stick with our “careful” strategy.

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