Geraldton to Meekatharra

The day’s run from Geraldton to Meekatharra is looked at separately mostly because so much happened between Perth and Geraldton and so little during the remainder of the day. Indeed the only trial stage was cleaned by most of the leading cars.

W6 – International Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
161.1 km2 hours12.32 pm Friday Click here

This transport took crews initially up the highway then towards the coast to the quaint Principality of Hutt River for a refuel before returning to and crossing the main coastal highway to start the trial stage near a place called Balla. Hutt River is a wheat farm located in a shallow valley about 30 km from the highway and the owner, “Prince” Leonard, has unilaterally seceded from Australia presumably as either a tax protest, a tourist gimmick or both. The Principality's representatives in the trial were Car 188, Webster/Jolly/McIntyre (FJ Holden). It is not clear whether they made it to Hutt River or not as they basically skipped from Wanneroo to Darwin but may have called in on the way!

The commemorative mail available for postage from Hutt River Principality

The said Prince greeted each crew upon arrival, wearing robes and medals suited to a Prince. A mock visa was provided and duly stamped. Fuel was supposedly available from a tanker, which was optional because the total distance from Geraldton to the next refuel at Cue was 548 km, less than the run through the Kimberley the following night. However the official refuel was in Meekatharra, a further 110 km north. In fact the pump at Hutt River was an antique version that took forever so a queue quickly formed and those who didn't need fuel would just keep going. Those who had to wait invariably dropped time on the transport.

Cowan arriving at Hutt River Principality
(Photo grabbed from the ABC Sport video)

After Hutt River the stage meanandered back to the main highway at Binnu, then headed east into flat farming and scrub country to the start of the next trial stage. It was mostly on gravel roads, albeit straight ones, but turned out to be pretty tight once crews had stopped for 10-15 minutes at Hutt River. Numerous crews lost a few minutes on the transport while some lost a lot more, probably as a result of being late out of Geraldton or having to wait for fuel at Hutt River. These included Carr (3 minutes), Watson (5 minutes), Jackson (6 minutes), Bond and Rowney (18 minutes each) and Fury (34 minutes).
Quite a few crews facing problems in Geraldton ended up cutting and running, most notably Warmbold whose Audi was in serious trouble. After effecting repairs they headed straight for Meekatharra that evening and did two stages up to Newman after which they skipped to Darwin. Taylor/Hunt (Rover 3500) skipped from Gerladton directly to Port Hedland.

W7 – Rabbit Run Trial Stage

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
358.9 km3 hours 36 minutes4.08 pm Friday Click here

This was a very enjoyable stage for drivers with some fabulous roads, not too many serious hazards and a beautiful fine day. The stage meandered through lots of scrub and station country, with roads that included fast flowing gravel, narrow sandy tracks, a section of deep sand and a few rough creek crossings and washaways. Early in the stage the route ran alongside the rabbit proof fence, hence the name of the stage. It was along here that there was a big uncautioned hole that was almost impossible to see with shadows across the road, and many crews had a hair raising moment as their cars were launched into the air at high speed. Most of the 38 gates had to be opened and closed. Several homesteads were passed including Bullardoo, Yuin, Woolgorong, Jingemarra and Melangata with locals spectating at most of these. The stage finished right in the abandoned gold mining town of Big Bell.

Frank Johnson negotiating a grid on the Rabbit Run Trial Stage
(Photo grabbed from the ABC Sport video)

The order on the road was Ferguson, Brock, Johnson, Cowan, Mehta, Dunkerton, Davis, Loader, Nalder and Barth. There was plenty of frustration as drivers got stuck in the dust of other cars. Mehta caught Cowan, Richards in the Nalder Celica caught the Loader Lancer, and the Porsche of Jurgen Barth caught the Celica. Later in the stage the Mehta Commodore developed a problem with the clutch linkages such that they could not de-clutch (Philip knew about this problem and could quickly fix it on the 05 car when it emerged). When they reached a gate they had to do tight loops through the scrub while Mehta jumped out to open and close the gate. Not surprisingly, Cowan caught them and re-passed them. In the end none of this mattered because all the leaders were early, even Carr and Bond who must have had to deal with a lot of dust from slower cars. Fury was not so fortunate and dropped 17 minutes. Other leaders to lose time, in most cases because of dust, were Herrmann (1 minute), Mizel (4 minutes), Jackson (7 minutes), Mason (9 minutes), McCubbin (11 minutes) and Watson (13 minutes).
Further back in the field the times started to climb as less experienced competitors tacked the dusty stage. Some were caught out by the big hole next to the rabbit fence, including Barry Lloyd who seriously bent the steering on the Colt, dropping almost 2 hours and then a further hour and half on the following transport as they rebuilt the front end. The Fullagher family were still coming to terms with what rallying is all about and lost over 3 hours. Many crews were perhaps stuck in the stretch of sandy track although the organisers had kindly included a map to assist competitors to find their way around the trouble spot. Foden/Baker/Young (Leyland P76) took a maximum penalty, perhaps short cutting to the end. In the end about 75 cars completed the stage and 18 cars cleaned the stage: Ferguson, Brock, Johnson, Cowan, Mehta, Dunkerton, Davis, Loader, Nalder, Barth, Carr, Bond, Rowney, Portman, Hilton, Beveridge, Roberts and almost certainly Stewart (not listed in results).

The abandoned Big Bell Hotel adjacent to the finish control was reputed to have the longest bar in the southern hemishere
(Photo: Ian Richards)

W8 – Meekatharra Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
151.7 km1 hour 50 minutes5.58 pm Friday Click here

After 28 km of gravel road into the sleepy town of Cue, crews drove up the lonely 100+ km of single strip bitumen to Meekatharra and the official refuel. The sun was just setting as the first cars started the first night trial stage 8 km north of Meekatharra.
Again, many cars needed extra service time and were late on this transport. Rowney was facing major issues with the 180B which was overheating badly and dropped 1 hour 20 minutes as they investigated the problem and flushing the cooling system. McCubbin needed repairs on the Monaro dropping 32 minutes. The Cortinas seemed to be under control with Bond and Fury dropping minimal time and Carr on time. Other leaders that were late were Herrmann (1 minute), Loader (2 minutes and fell behind Nalder on the road), Jackson and Mason (3 minutes each), Mehta (6 minutes after fixing the clutch problem, would have dropped behind Dunkerton on the road), Fury (also 6 minutes), Bond (7 minutes), Roberts (11 minutes), McCubbin (32 minutes).
Further back there were some crews needing plenty of work on their cars. Among them were Maloney/Vitnel/Daley (Leyland P76) who dropped almost 2 hours and Lloyd/Crockenberg/Dick (Colt) who lost more than an hour and a half after their previous encounter with the Rabbit Fence hole. Some crews would visit the start of the next stage, which was on the highway, but then proceed straight up the highway to Newman. After all, there was no easy retreat and the second of the two stages to Newman was billed as a "horror" stage.

The outright placing at Meekatharra had not changed a great deal except for the absence of Warmbold and the slide down the list by Fury, Rowney and McCubbin.

  1. Ferguson/Bell/Boddy (Commodore) 1.03.39
  2. Brock/Philip/Richards(Commodore)1.18.06
  3. Johnson/Vanderbyl (Volvo 242)2.08.42
  4. Cowan/Reddiex/Beaumont (Citroen CX) 2.23.48
  5. Bond/Riley/Dawson-Damer (Cortina) 2.50.01
  6. Mehta/Aaltonen/Lake (Commodore) 3.12.38
  7. Carr/Morrow/Gocentas (Cortina) 3.16.41
  8. Dunkerton/McKay/Jones (Volvo 244) 3.23.08
  9. Fury/Bonhomme/Suffern (Cortina) 3.46.59
  10. Portman/Thompson/Hammond (Stanza) 3.59.55
  11. Nalder/Richards/Boyd (Celica) 5.34.02
  12. Rowney/Wilson/Tyson (Datsun 180B) 5.46.03
  13. Davis/Eather/Toner (Datsun 180B) 5.49.17
  14. Loader/Hill/Neale (Lancer) 5.56.28
  15. Barth/Kushmaul (Porsche 924) 6.19.07
  16. Stewart/Parry (Commodore) score not known
  17. Mason/Hicks/Horley (Commodore) 6.45.17
  18. Watson/Harrowfield (Peugeot 504 Diesel) 7.22.23
  19. Herrmann/Rainsford (Porsche 911) 7.42.40
  20. Hilton/Bourke/Pattenden (Celica) 7.43.20
  21. Roberts/Waterson/Carrol (Commodore) 8.17.32
  22. Jackson/West/Jackson (Commodore) 9.31.38
  23. Mizel/Hall/Fricker/Mortimer (Chevy Blazer) 10.58.38
  24. McCubbin/Kelly/Guyatt (Monaro GTS) 11.19.50

Next: Meekatharra to Wittenoom

1 comment:

Ian Richards said...

Wes drove the transport up to Hutt River and I dozed in the back. Hutt River was somewhat entertaining – we sent postcards home from here and were amused that after you purchased “local” stamps, they then put “real” Australian stamps on as well! We topped up with fuel and then I drove the remainder of the transport ready to also drive the competitive stage across to Big Bell. We had overstayed at Hutt River and had to push along to make it on time. We started the trial stage at 1.20 pm on a beautiful day.
I really enjoyed the stage across to Big Bell – it had quite a lot of variety. Some sections were poor quality with some nasty creek crossings and washaways and there was one stretch of deep sand for about 5 km. There were also some super-fast roads and tracks and I recall early in the stage running at 150 km/h on a straight narrow track with trees on one side and a fence on the other then falling in a hole and being launched in the air – quite hairy! We caught the Lancer at about 100 km and at several gates in succession we came up behind them but they wouldn’t let us through so we dropped back, fearing a repeat performance of the previous day! We suspected that the Porsche was close behind and sure enough at 167 km we miscued onto an airstrip and he almost got past but then we BOTH miscued again but we turned around first and he sailed past. Around 260 km we caught the Lancer again, this time at a gate they were having trouble opening so they waved us through. It was nice to have a dust free run for the remaining 65 km to control but we were all early.
I continued to drive into Cue and up to Meekatharra. Service guys Dick and Steve were waiting for us in Cue and then tailed us to Meekatharra. It was quite beautiful traversing this red countryside at sunset. We didn’t dawdle much in either town, just filling the fuel up at Meekatharra. Wes drove out to the start of the trial stage which he was going to drive.