Townsville to Rockhampton

The overnight run from Townsville to Rockhampton included three competitive stages with a refuel break at Mackay. It is where the Brock Commodore re-asserted its hold on the event.

All seemed happy in the Holden team before departing Townsville
(Photo courtesy of Ray Berghouse, Chevron Publishing

Q1 – Bowen/Collinsville Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
302.2 km4 hours10.00 pm Wednesday
Delayed to 11.00 pm
Click here

With an hour allowed for service the first car was released from Townsville impound at 6.00 pm for a notional 7.00 pm departure. This was an hour later than originally planned as a result of the extended rest in Darwin. The most popular conversation topic among the leading crews at the impound was the scores since the event organisers seemed to be having trouble giving definitive scores, although most of the leading crews knew their own score accurately (but were not necessairly telling anyone!).
For those who departed Townsville on time it was a fairly leisurely run down the highway almost to Bowen and then onto the Bowen Development Road as far as Collinsville where crews could top up on fuel if they wished. There was quite a big crowd in Collinsville to see the cars pass by. The first trial stage started about 24 km south of Collinsville adjacent to the Bowen River.
Of the 96 cars in the event, plus the "running under protest" Carter:

  • 67 cars arrived at Collinsville on time
  • 9 were late or early at Collinsville
  • 16 skipped Collinsville, presumably because of the need for extended service time, and eventually headed south to rejoin the rally in Mackay, Rockhampton or Brisbane.
  • 5 cars do not appear in the results, including Myers and Turner who magically re-appear in the next division, and the three cars that retired on Dvision Q (Caddey, Parsons and Hilton). Hilton was placed 14th at Townsville, second last of those who had not missed a control, but they had some car problems and were dead tired. They left Townsville late after needing extra service time.

It was a pleasant cool night with the first car starting the trial stage at 11 pm. For some reason Carr and Barth both dropped road position to Portman before the start of the first competitive, although the results do not show them dropping time. They may have arrived "just" on time. The road order was Ferguson, Brock, Mehta, Dunkerton, Nalder, Portman (with a 6 minute gap), Carr then Barth, then Loader, Davis, Herrmann and Watson.

Q2 – “The Climb” Trial Stage

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
108.1 km1 hour 25 minutes12.25 am Thursday Click here

With only a 76 km/h average, this stage across the range to near Eungella looked like it might be cleanable. Certainly the first 66 km were on fairly fast roads and station tracks with a few dips, crests and creek crossings, including the fording of the Bowen River at 52 km. There were a number of gates but they were mostly open. After Blenheim Station at 66 km the stage headed more eastwards into the ranges and at 75 km went up an extremely steep climb of Mount Dingo requiring some cars to use first gear (since then the road has become so washed out that a 4WD with low range is probably needed to get up this climb). From the top of the climb the road improved and at 87 km the stage passed Eungella Reservoir and followed a good fast gravel road through to the end of the stage near the edge of the Eungella National Park. Dust would have been a moderate hazard, and while the stage was a bit rough on the climb, it would otherwise seem to present few real problems. The leading eight cars cleaned, as well as Fury in the other running Cortina.

Towards the top of the Mount Dingo climb (Photo: Ian Richards, 2020)

All 76 cars made it through the stage with most time losses under about half an hour. The exceptions were the Jackson Commodore, still struggling with mechanical issues and dropping over an hour, as well as Reinders dropping over an hour and a half.

Fastest times:

  • Ferguson, Brock, Mehta, Dunkerton, Carr, Nalder, Portman, Barth, Fury clean
  • Herrmann 2
  • Colless 3
  • Davis 4
  • Boaden, Giddings 5
  • Watson 7
  • Johnson, Loader, Beveridge 8
  • Finlay, Roberts 9
  • Mizel, Miettunen, Lockhart 10
  • Taylor 11
  • Clarke, Rowney, Kahler 12
  • Clyborne, Faulkner, McCubbin, Bird, Glover, Darby 13
  • Potter, Goldsborough, Cafe, Boys 14
  • Jensen, Stockley 15
  • Koseki, Birrell 17
  • Maloney 17
  • Minett, Garner, Lahiff, Lance 18

Q3 – Mackay Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
213.2 km2 hours 30 minutes2.55 am Thursday Click here

From the end of the trial stage the transport took crews through the picturesque Eungella National park to the township of Eungella, then descended the range on the very tight and twist bitumen road which actually has a 40 km/h speed limit. No doubt many crews disregarded this as it is a lovely piece of road, albeit somewhat slippery with a light layer of dew on the tarmac! The route headed east through the Pioneer Valley to Mackay although the organisers had devised a complicated route through the back streets of North Mackay, eventually passing a deserted Repco store in the early hours of the morning before stopping at a bustling refuel at South Mackay. The route continued down the Bruce Highway to Sarina. Back in 1979 the Bruce Highway followed the inland route from Sarina to Marlborough and crews followed this for about 55 km from Sarina before turning eastwards for 13 km along a gravel road along the valley of Tierawoomba Creek to the start of the next trial stage.
Given the meandering and somewhat complex nature of this stage, it was little wonder than many crews were late. Being at that terrible time of the night in the hours just before dawn would have also put added pressure on weary crews as perhaps drivers tried to navigate as others slept. In the end only 10 cars actually cleaned the transport. Many losses could not be explained by just going a bit slow or taking a bit long to refuel as 9 cars were more than an hour late and a further 17 cars more than 30 minutes late. Of the leaders, Davis was 6 minutes late, Herrmann 8 minutes late, Watson 11 minutes late, Loader 14 minutes late, Mizel 20 minutes late and Jackson, still struggling, 29 minutes late.

Q4 – Killarney Trial Stage

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
84.7 km1 hour3.55 am Thursday Click here

This trial stage started just past Tierawoomba Station and ran generally southwards through undulating grazing country with many creek crossings, some a bit rough. The road was good with some very fast sections and some sharp turns and dips into creeks. The second half became more twisty through hilly terrain with one quite steep climb. About 4 km from the end crews turned right onto the main gravel road from St Lawrence. The 85 km/h average was achievable, just!

Typical conditions in the second half (Photo: Ian Richards, 2020)

Dust was not a big problem with some light rain falling. Brock matched Ferguson's time but neither were pushing hard as Mehta was 4 minutes quicker, cleaning the stage and perhaps passing Brock, although it seems more likely that they conned the start official for a bigger gap. Portman had a 6 minute gap on the road to Nalder but had Carr 2 minutes behind and they both dropped the same time, catching 4 minutes on the Celica, who dropped the same as Dunkerton ahead of them.
The results show 70 cars completing the stage with the majority of times under 30 minutes late. Further back, it was probably on this stage that Hilton's Celica hit a ditch and lost a wheel and brake drum. Unable to locate either, they continued, presumably without brakes, having no doubt lost quite a lot of time.

Fastest times:

  • Metha clean
  • Carr, Portman and Fury 2
  • Brock and Ferguson 4
  • Dunkerton, Nalder and Barth 6
  • Johnson 7
  • Colless, Bird, Clyborne 9
  • Herrmann 10
  • Loader, Giddings 12
  • Cafe, Watson 13
  • Gough 14
  • Kahler, Ingerson, Garner, Beveridge, Minett, Hayden 15
  • Foden, Neilson, Roggenkamp, Glover 16
  • Clarke, Boaden, Finlay 17
  • Taylor, Faullner, Donoghue, McCubbin 18
  • Rowney, Birrell, Darby 19
  • Potter, Spanbroek, Koch 20
  • Koseki, Jensen, Boys 21
  • Penny, Goldsborough, Nicholson 22
  • Farmer 23
  • Davis, Lloyd, Miettunen 24
  • Roberts, Lockhart, Caudle 25
Strangely, the results show Jackson missing the control, which is not consistent with their ultimate classification in 13th outright having missed no controls, so this is assumed to be a typo, but how late they were can't be deduced from the division total, unless they cleaned, which is unlikely.

Q5 – Stanelis’ Horror Trial Stage

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
45.6 km45 minutes4.40 am Thursday Click here

Crews immediately tackled this trial stage billed as a horror stage but it was really not in the same league as the two horror stages in WA. Ivor Stanelis was quoted in the media guide as saying it was the "trickiest in the trial, and hard". Certainly it was slow and tricky and no-one cleaned even though it was set at a 60 km/h average. But it was apparent that Stanelis had not been over the WA stages as they were much tricker and much more challenging. The instructions said “mostly two-wheel grassy ill-defined track with numerous creek crossings, including a few log type bridges. Steep descent at 31 km requires care.” The description was fairly accurate and although it was slippery and very steep in places, it simply required a careful approach to avoid any problems. There were many washouts, dips and creek crossings as the track meandered through scrub country eventually reaching a cleared farming area where there were a couple of home made bridges. The steep descent lasted a couple of kilometres and had high drainage channels diagonally across the track. The last part of the stage crossed some paddocks through gates, emerging onto what was then the old Bruce Highway, which is nowadays the actual Bruce Highway! 

Typical conditions on this stage - except it was night! (Photo: Ian Richards, 2020)

Brock would have started about 2 minutes behind Ferguson but caught them after the 17 car overshot a turn. According to Richards the 17 car was backing up towards the junction when Brock arrived and went in front of them. Subsequently Brock stopped to open a gate and left it open for the next car, calling them on the radio to ask them to shut it but apparently Bell said he didn't see it (but it was certainly in the route instructions). Then the Ferguson car apparently got a puncture, but they dropped a massive 17 minutes to Brock's 5, which seems a big difference for just an overshoot and a puncture, so perhaps they had another problem or perhaps the team had instructed them to take a deliberate penalty to allow Brock into the lead. Certainly with a slipping clutch, the overshoot down a steep road may have been difficult to reverse out of. In any case Brock had grabbed the lead by about 11 minutes. Mehta dropped 12, perhaps stopping to help Ferguson, or simply slowing and tailing them. The 05 crew were adamant that they were going at the "right" pace. This seems to be born out by the time set by Carr, who only dropped 2 and almost caught the Nalder Celica, which was passed by Portman who dropped the same as Brock.
Later cars were faced with somewhat chopped up roads making the steep descent even more treacherous, but in the end a total of 65 cars completed the stage, with 5 cars going around the easy way via the Bruce Highway, taking a wrong direction. These included Jack Murray who then skipped the Rocky special stage also and headed straight for Brisbane. All those that did the stage dropped under an hour with most under 30 minutes, bearing out the fact that the stage was not really too bad. Quite a few other crews had cut and run from Townsville or Mackay and picked up the control along the way without doing the stage.


  • Colless was shown dropping 1, which seems doubtful!
  • Carr 2
  • Brock and Portman 5
  • Rowney 6
  • Davis and Clyborne 7
  • Nalder and Johnson 8
  • Dunkerton and Loader 9
  • Barth, Watson, Bird 10
  • Faulkner 11
  • Mehta 12
  • Fury 13
  • Potter, O'Donnell 14
  • Herrmann, Sheridan 15
  • Donoghue, Birrell 16
  • Ferguson, Ingerson, Clarke, Boaden, Lockhart 17
  • Gough, Beveridge, Neilson, Mizel 18
  • Minett, Kock, Boys, Travis 19
  • Spanbroek 20
  • Garner, Hayden, Roggenkamp, McCubbin, Koseki, Goldsborough 21
  • Lahiff 22
  • Taylor, Roberts, Hurrey 23
  • Glover, Walker, Lance 24
  • Finlay, Nicholson, Lunney 25
  • Darby 26
  • Foden, Lloyd 27
  • Cafe, Meehan 28
  • Bary 29
  • Giddings, Penny 30
  • Farmer 36
  • Fullagher 37
  • Jackson 57
  • Rayner 59

Q6 – Rockhampton Transport

DistanceTime allowedFirst car dueMap
171.7 km2 hours 10 minutes6.50 am Thursday Click here

The first 60 km of the 168 km run down to Rockhampton was on the old gravel highway which was being upgraded to become the new Bruce Highway, so there were roadworks and detours throwing the route chart into some disarray, but no-one had any problems. The route joined the old bitumen Bruce Highway at Marlborough and continued into Rocky where the first cars arrived at around 6.30 am, just after dawn. The time allowed was adequate and crews had some spare time to refuel and grab a bite of breakfast in Rockhampton before heading out to the start of a special stage on the outskirts of town.
According to Tuckey in An old dog for a hard road, as well as others at the Rockhampton refuel, Bell was furious and jumped out of the car exclaiming to Shepheard "So much for your fucking tactics. The bastard passed us." The 05 crew were unrepentant, simply claiming they were going at the right pace and that the Bell/Ferguson car had backed off too much. In the final analysis, the scores reveal that the 17 car must have had a problem, whatever it was! Much of this does not quite add up because according to Bell in the August 2016 issue of Rallysport Magazine, the decision had been made back in Townsville to allow Brock to win and Bell was not allowed to drive the car again, save for driving the transport into his home town of Newcastle. This might even suggest that the Ferguson car had deliberately stopped on the previous horror stage in order to allow the Brock car into a clear lead, but in reality, what happened remains a mystery.
Of the leaders, Portman dropped 5 minutes and Jackson 7 minutes on the transport. A few others dropped similarly small amounts of time although The valve in Rowney's 180B let go on the run into Rockhampton and they had to remove the rocker and run the remainder of the event on three cylinder's, with the plug removed. They dropped 39 minutes on the transport. Jensen also dropped more than half an hour. Darby had major dramas dropping over 3 hours and after doing the special stage they would head directly for Sydney.

Placings at Rockhampton:

  1. Brock/Philip/Richards(Commodore) 2.25.06
  2. Ferguson/Bell/Boddy (Commodore) 2.36.39
  3. Mehta/Aaltonen/Lake (Commodore) 4.02.38
  4. Dunkerton/McKay/Jones (Volvo 244) 7.49.08
  5. Nalder/Richards/Boyd (Celica) 8.30.02
  6. Carr/Morrow/Gocentas (Cortina) 8.42.41
  7. Barth/Kushmaul (Porsche 924) 9.15.07
  8. Portman/Thompson/Hammond (Stanza) 10.12.55
  9. Loader/Hill/Neale (Lancer) 10.44.28
  10. Herrmann/Rainsford (Porsche 911) 11.18.40
  11. Davis/Eather/Toner (Datsun 180B) 11.30.17
  12. Watson/Harrowfield (Peugeot 504 Diesel) 12.47.23
  13. Mizel/Hall/Fricker/Mortimer (Chevy Blazer) 20.49.38
  14. Hilton/Bourke/Pattenden (Celica) score not known
  15. Jackson/West/Jackson (Commodore) 25.55.38

Next: Rockhampton to Brisbane

1 comment:

Ian Richards said...

We all awoke at 5 pm and soon discovered that we were fifth and out of impound at 6.08 where I discussed the scoring with Noel and Greg Carr – we were all a bit nonplussed with the organisers’ scoring vagueness. It was just dusk as we headed to the dealership where everything went like clockwork with the car getting a new diff, full shocks and struts, new tyres and the bull bar straightened. I plotted the route to Brisbane which looked pretty straightforward. The other two Celicas arrived but Hilton was very tired and dejected. He seemed to be taking too much on himself and we barely ever heard mention of his other two crew members. Geoff and I then went for a walk to find some drinks. Geoff drove the first transport while Wes slept in the back and I dozed in the front. After I managed to find our way out of Townsville there was no real navigation and we reached the Collinsville refuel about 10.30 pm where Geoff and I swapped places, Wes still in the back, as I was to drive the first competitive. At the control we lined up behind Dunkerton and chatted to everyone around a small fire as it was a cool night. Somehow Portman came in behind us, then Carr, not sure why, but perhaps Carr had been late on the transport. The Porsche may have come in just as we left.
The stage across to Eungella was entertaining and enjoyable. The first half was very quick with plenty of dips, crests, sharp corners into creeks, gates and the fording of the Bowen River. We were in first gear up the steep climb of Mount Dingo but after that I enjoyed the wide, fast and flowing road to the end. We only just cleaned but it was a good start to the division as we wanted to carry forward our momentum from before Townsville. I continued to drive from Eungella down to Mackay, almost losing it on one of the dew covered hairpin bends on the descent! The Barth Porsche was following us now with Roland Kushmal driving and Jurgen asleep. Geoff followed the devious route chart through the back streets of Mackay and when the Porsche didn’t make it through one set of traffic lights behind us we stopped and waited for them! Down at the refuel there was quite a crowd and after refuelling we put Wes in the driver’s seat and headed southwards with me in the back.
Wes drove the quite interesting Killarney stage while I slept. I was awoken at one stage when the car locked up and slid wide, rising onto two wheels, barely missing a large tree and crashing down into a dry creek bed. Phew! It seemed to have been a hairy moment and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Soon after we turned onto the east-west St Lawrence road and I freshened up to drive the next stage. The so-called “horror” stage was pretty rough and rugged but nothing too severe. I initially pushed a bit hard and Geoff suggested that I take it easier on the car. On the steep descent at 31 km we took it nice and easy and Portman went past and at the end Carr came in right behind us but we had not held him up. We kind of knew that Carr would now be in front of us on outright scores but we didn’t really care as we were content to just run at our own pace.
I continued to drive through to Rockhampton. The first part had road works and the route chart didn’t fit but it didn’t matter as the only option was to get to Rockhampton. It became light soon after we joined the bitumen at Marlborough but Wes and Geoff slept pretty much all the way. There was a modest crowd at the refuel and Steve Jonas (Radio 3XY) interviewed Wes. The service guys from the plane were there and repaired a bent exhaust bracket from the previous stage, and we got some coffees before heading out to the special stage.