Mount Isa to Cairns

The day and evening run from Mount Isa to Cairns comprised three competitive stages but only the Kajabbi Trial Stage immediately out of Mount Isa would take time penalties from the leading cars. That is not to say that the stage to Croydon was easy, since the wide sandy crossing of the Norman River would certainly delay most cars. The biggest challenge now was fatigue as crews started to pull into Cairns late on Tuesday night for barely an hour's break before continuing southwards to Townsville.

T11 – Barkly Highway Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
18.9 km29 minutes9.10 am Tuesday Click here

The short run out the Barkly Highway east from Mount Isa effectively included time to refuel on the way out of town. Quite a few crews would lose time taking much needed service in Mount Isa, most obviously the Jacksons who changed the engine on their Commodore losing over 5 hours and putting them right at the back of the field. It was remarkable that after such a loss of time they were not only able to continue but to get all the way to the end of the event without missing a control. Other crews who lost more than 2 hours were Clyborne, Maloney, Taylor and Lahiff. Among the leaders Carr's Cortina needed more work and was 1 hour 17 minutes late while Hilton lost a further 6 minutes.

T12 – Kajabbi Trial Stage

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
96.0 km1 hour10.10 am Tuesday Click here

The ranges to the east of Mount Isa are quite rugged, reminiscent of the Flinders Ranges traversed earlier in the event. The stage up to Kajabbi was quite tight in places, loose gravel, somewhat rough and included many rocky creek crossings. In fact the Leichhardt River was crossed twice, the second time close to the finish control where the ABC film crew were stationed. The route meandered off the main "through road" onto various mining tracks that were signposted “Private Haul Road”. They were rough, narrow and rocky.

Nalder crossing the Leichhardt River on the Kajabbi Stage
(Photo grabbed from the ABC Sport video)

The one hour allowed was unachievable but Wayne Bell pushed hard dropping only 3, passing Brock who reckoned he was pushing unnecessarily hard in the rough stuff. The Challenge Australia book also suggests that Brock may have had a spin. Mehta dropped 6 while Brock and Portman dropped 7. The Ferguson/Bell Commodore had not only taken first on the road but they had moved into the overall lead by a minute. Dunkerton broke something in the rear suspension of the Volvo and had to effect makeshift repairs at the stage end and then look for a welder on the next transport. The time losses for the majority of crews were in the range of 10 to 30 minutes but quite a few were even slower, with time losses stretching out to over 40 minutes. The road may have been quite corrugated and rutted in places for the later runners and Jackson, probably running close to the rear of the field, dropped almost an hour. Only Koch who dropped over 2 hours was slower.

Dunkerton limps into the end of the Kajabbi Stage with a broken rear suspension
(Photo grabbed from the ABC Sport video)

64 cars completed the stage. Times:

  • Ferguson (Bell) 3
  • Mehta 6
  • Brock and Portman 7
  • Carr 8
  • Fury 9
  • Herrmann, Barth and Rowney 11
  • Hilton and Miettunen 12
  • Watson and Nalder 14
  • Davis 15
  • Johnson, Stockley, Loader (guess) 16
  • Dunkerton 18
  • Koseki 19
  • Mizel, Boys, Kahler 20
  • O'Donnell 21
  • Travis, Lahiff, Taylor, Farmer 22
  • Giddings, Faulkner, Goldsborough, Neilson 23
  • Penny, Roggenkamp, Clarke, Finlay 24
  • Wilson, Birrell 26
  • Roberts, Hurrey, Beveridge, O'Shanesy 27
  • McCubbin, Boaden, Heaton 28
  • Lloyd, Lance, McTigue 29
  • Jensen 30
  • Nicholson, Meehan 31
  • Ferrier 33
  • Murray, Sheridan, Richardson 34
  • Herdy, Turner 35
  • Rayner 37
  • Walker, Carter, Myers 42
  • Tattingham 44
  • Lunney 49
  • Jackson 57
  • Koch 2.16

T13 – Bang Bang Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
205.3 km2 hours 40 minutes12.50 pm Tuesday Click here

This transport stage began with 42 km of gravel road out to the main Cloncurry to Normanton Road with the remainder on the tarmac. About midway through the stage was the Burke and Wills Roadhouse near the junction where the road to Gregory Downs heads west. The time allowed for the stage included 20 minutes stop for fuel and a bite to eat, but it was possible to take more. Despite having to locate a local cocky to weld up the rear suspension of the Volvo, Dunkerton still made the stage on time. Many crews forwent the break and booked in early, in Miettunen's case 48 minutes early! Some needed extra time, such as the Lloyd Colt which was 54 minutes late and the Neilson HQ Holden over 2 hours late. Others, including the Taylor Rover, headed eastwards instead towards Townsville.

Burke and Wills Roadhouse
(Photo: Ian Richards)

The start of the next stage was just past a prominent rocky outcrop known as Bang Bang Jumpup. The first car started the next stage just after one o'clock and it was perhaps the hottest day of the event, close to 40 degrees. The shade of the control official's tent was a welcome relief although the sign hung from the control official's car was quizzical: “Is your journey really necessary?” Another signed warned of deep sand at the Norman River and indicated that the pull out fee was $15. A third sign said that all the gates had to be closed!

The control at Bang Bang
(Photo: Ian Richards)

T14 – Norman River Trial Stage

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
243.1 km3 hours3.50 pm Tuesday Click here

The Davis 180B flat out heading towards Iffley
(Photo grabbed from the ABC Sport video

Once again it was unclear why the organisers had set an easy time for this trial stage to Croydon, requiring only a bit over an 80 km/h average. Much of the stage was over extremely fast station tracks across to Iffley Station where many cars would have been sitting on maximum speed for much of the time. On these roads the only reasons to slow down was the occasional sharp bend and gates of which there were 21 on the stage. Some distance after Iffley the route entered a narrow sandy track through scrub country and then crossed the dry sandy Norman River where the aforementioned 4WDs were offering their towing at $15 a pop.
The first two Commodores got through the river OK, not so sure about the Mehta car. Nalder’s Celica (Richards driving) got stuck briefly and was passed by the Barth Porsche who got through OK. After the river the track remained narrow and sandy for about 20 km including one particularly difficult to open bush gate where Mehta, Barth and Nalder all stopped together to work on opening the gate! Once the gate was open, Barth passed the Mehta Commodore (Aaltonen driving) also but everyone reached control early and were put back into the original running order. The road gradually improved towards Croydon although there was a nasty right hander over a crest into a creek quite close to the end and one of the leading cars went off but apparently without damage. Surprisingly, only 11 cars cleaned the stage.
Perhaps coping with dust, or perhaps bogged in the sand, Carr and Fury dropped 1 minute and 6 minutes respectively. Davis was not far behind the leading pack but dropped 29 minutes, as did Watson. Likewise Herrmann was not so far back but dropped 36 minutes. Rowney was much further back and dropped 31. The times are difficult to fathom and may have been influenced by the dust of cutting and running cars that had rejoined at Mount Isa. Hilton's nightmare run continued, dropping 55 minutes.

Barth approaching Croydon
(Photo grabbed from the ABC Sport video)

Further back in the field it would have been dark through the sandy Norman River and apparently for some of the late runners the local 4WD recovery vehicles had departed the scene. Reportedly Jack Murray had to fetch help from the local station owner to get towed out of the sand, losing almost 3 hours. The Challenge book reports that the Turner P76 was there with Murray but the results suggest that they did not complete the stage within their late time limit. The "running under protest" Carter was also more than 3 hours late.
The results show that a total of 37 cars completed the stage, while 23 cars that had reached Bang Bang took the easy way around through Normanton, collecting a 4 hour maximum penalty for their wrong direction at Croydon (although it is possible that some of these did the stage and were more than 4 hours late).


  • Ferguson, Brock, Mehta, Nalder, Barth, Dunkerton, Portman, Meehan, Neilson, Sheridan, Travis clean
  • Carr 1
  • Fury 6
  • Kock 13
  • Mizel 16
  • Roberts 17
  • Johnson 22
  • Davis, Watson 29
  • McCubbin 30
  • Rowney 31
  • Jackson, Finlay 32
  • Herrmann 36
  • Kahler 43
  • Hurrey 46
  • Birrell 47
  • Farmer 51
  • Hilton 55
  • Lance 56
  • Penny 1.18
  • Roggenkamp 1.37
  • Giddings 1.44
  • Boys 2.12
  • McTigue 2.33
  • Murray 2.57
  • Carter 3.18

T15 – Mount Surprise Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
256.3 km3 hours6.50 pm Tuesday Click here

It was about four o'clock on a warm clear afteroon as the first cars pulled into sleepy Croydon where the population had been swelled by an influx of service crews. Cars were refuelled for the run to Cairns. The run east to Mount Surprise, about 100 km east of Georgetown (close to the Undara Lava Tubes), allowed crews only about 20 minutes to spare in Croydon. As dusk descended on the early cars the biggest hazard was kangaroos which were plentiful and very active at that time of day. It was well and truly dark by the time the first car started the next trial stage.

Crossing the Gilbert River east of Croydon
(Photo: Ian Richards)

All the leaders were on time to Mount Surprise. Many other crews were booking in early to regain late time, while some were certainly late as a result of mechanical challenges, most notably Rowney who was over an hour late with continuing overheating problems.

T16 – Almaden Trial Stage

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
152.1 km2 hours8.50 pm Tuesday Click here

The run up to Almaden used a fast gravel and dirt road with quite a few creek crossings and three crossings of the railway. Why the organisers had set such a slow time at a 76 km/h average is almost beyond belief and the faster cars would be at least half an hour early.

The Almaden control location
(Grabbed from Google Maps Street View)

A total of 51 cars completed the stage and 34 of them cleaned it. A further 3 actually booked in early. Rowney was clearly struggling, with the car badly overheating, dropping a further 45 minutes and they were now getting close to their late time limit. Six cars elected to skip the stage and went from the start directly to Cairns or Townsville.

T17 – Cairns Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
177.2 km2 hours 15 minutes11.05 pm Tuesday,
Depart 12.05 am Wednesday
Click here

The late night drive into Cairns was mostly bitumen passing through Mareeba and Kuranda. The first cars arrived at the Cairns Civic Centre about 11 pm for about a one hour break. A surprisingly large crowd had gathered at Cairns to see the cars in the middle of the night and indeed such crowds were to become more common as the event headed down the populated east coast.
The transport stage was pretty tight and perversely, after so many cars had clearned the Almaden Trial Stage, only 21 cars cleaned the stage into Cairns. Quite a few cars dropped a few minutes, indicating that the time was set poorly. These included Portman (3 minutes), Herrmann (6 minutes), Jackson (7 minutes), Watson (9 minutes), Mizel (10 minutes) and Davis (12 minutes). Some dropped even more time, suggesting more serious problems, including Rowney who was 52 minutes late into Cairns and on the edge of their late time limit. They had arranged with Howard Marsden to get spare vales and gaskets sent to Cairns but when they opened the pack they were the wrong size so they had to continue, regularly stopping to replenish coolant. After Cairns they would skip the next trial stage and drop their first and only control for the event.

The results of the 16 cars that had not missed a control were as follows. Obviously the top two positions had swapped, while Carr had fallen back behind Nalder and Portman:

  1. Ferguson/Bell/Boddy (Commodore) 2.15.39
  2. Brock/Philip/Richards(Commodore) 2.16.06
  3. Mehta/Aaltonen/Lake (Commodore) 3.50.38
  4. Dunkerton/McKay/Jones (Volvo 244) 7.31.08
  5. Nalder/Richards/Boyd (Celica) 8.16.02
  6. Portman/Thompson/Hammond (Stanza) 8.17.55
  7. Carr/Morrow/Gocentas (Cortina) 8.38.41
  8. Barth/Kushmaul (Porsche 924) 8.49.07
  9. Loader/Hill/Neale (Lancer) 9.57.28 (guess as no score in Results)
  10. Herrmann/Rainsford (Porsche 911) 10.25.40
  11. Davis/Eather/Toner (Datsun 180B) 10.26.17
  12. Watson/Harrowfield (Peugeot 504 Diesel) 11.58.23
  13. Rowney/Wilson/Tyson (Datsun 180B) 11.48.03
  14. Mizel/Hall/Fricker/Mortimer (Chevy Blazer) 18.29.38
  15. Hilton/Bourke/Pattenden (Celica) 19.27.20
  16. Jackson/West/Jackson (Commodore) 21.54.38

Next: Cairns to Townsville

1 comment:

Ian Richards said...

The Mount Isa stop was a bit frustrating as we were all getting very tired and the dealership hadn’t organised breakfast or showers etc. The service boys were there and checked over the car as well as replacing the punctured tyre. Geoff got in the back upon departure and I navigated Wes but we forgot to refuel and had to turn around and go back a few kms. We felt a bit silly but it was symptomatic of our fatigue and a reminder that we needed to be careful.
Wes drove the Kajabbi stage which he seemed to enjoy, but it was really quite rough and rugged so I didn’t get any sleep! The 14 minutes we dropped were our only penalties on this division. It was nearly 11 am at Kajabbi and it was the hottest day yet. Geoff drove up to the Burke and Wills Roadhouse while Wes slept and I dozed in the passenger seat. Wes managed to get a shower at the roadhouse while we refuelled and grabbed milkshakes. Geoff kept driving up to Bang Bang where we were pleased to lay down for a few minutes in the shade of the control official’s tent. It was bloody hot!
I drove the Norman River stage which was absolutely flat chat on good station tracks for much of the first half, only punctuated by numerous gates. Once onto the fainter track up to Claravale it was slower going but we were so far ahead of schedule that it would have to be really bad for us to lose time. At the Norman River there was a maze of tracks with lots of deep sand. Someone appeared and said that the Commodores had gotten through OK so just charge at it, which we did, but got stuck about 100 metres beyond. We paid the guy $15 and told him to get organised. He was still positioning his 4WD when the Porsche passed us on the left and disappeared. We were soon pulled out OK and when we exited the river the Porsche appeared on our left, having taken the wrong track. He tried to do a drag race with us on the narrow track, knocking down the shrubs, so I backed off, being uninterested in such manoeuvres! It was still very sandy and at a mallee gate a few kms further on we found both the Mehta Commodore and Porsche at the gate with Barry Lake and Roland Kushmal trying to open it. Geoff got out and joined in! Soon enough it was open but the Porsche sped off much to Aaltonen’s disgust. We were last and left to close the gate. The remainder of the stage was fairly fast and open with a few gates and a tricky corner over a brow where someone ahead of us had gone off (my guess was the Porsche as Jurgen seemed to be fired up!). We were all early at Croydon so went back into the original order and Jurgen apologised to Geoff for his “ungentlemanly” behaviour back at the Norman River!
I drove into Croydon where our service boys checked over the car and I tried to buy flavoured milk but could only buy plastic bags (yes, bags!) of milk which were a bit tricky to drink! I continued to drive eastwards towards Georgetown while both Wes and Geoff slept. There was a small crowd at the Georgetown refuel but we didn’t need to stop. The sun was then setting and kangaroos were everywhere, sometimes in groups of five or ten on the road, so there were some hairy manoeuvres at high speed on the single track bitumen as we tried to avoid them. We arrived ten minutes early at the start control for the Almaden stage with Wes and Geoff still asleep.
I was soon in the back sleeping as Wes drove into the stage at 7.35 pm. I slept soundly except when we punctured and I shuffled the wheels in and out of the back. The Porsche passed us but we were all early, in fact very early, and resumed positions. We headed off towards Cairns at 9.35 pm with Wes still driving and me still sleeping. There was a big crowd at Cairns where we arrived about 11.30 pm. Our service guys didn’t arrive until we were nearly due to leave, but Dick’s parents were there and provided us with food and coffee. The short break passed quickly and we needed to fight our way back through the crowd to get to our car!