The majority of the original route of the 1979 Repco Reliability Trial can still be traversed today. Some planning and analysis was undertaken with a view to conducting an exploratory tour of the route as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the event. While such an organised tour was not viable, there is nothing to stop individuals or groups of interested people exploring parts of the original route under there own arrangements. However, anyone proposing to tour parts of the route should consider the information below. Anyone touring the route must obey all road rules and be respectful of other road users. They must respect private property and seek permissions where appropriate. And they must be well prepared, especially if tackling remote stages where recovery is likely to be difficult and expensive.
The following information is provided “as is” with no warranties as to its accuracy and its author accepts no liability in this regard. So far as possible, the notes have identified which parts of the route use public access roads and which parts require permissions, but anyone using this information must make their own inquiries in this regard. It is important to remember that for the most part, this information has been obtained from publicly available sources such as maps and aerial photos. The original route has NOT been surveyed on the ground.
Why tour the original route?
Many people have an interest in the history of Australia’s greatest long-distance car rally. Some are interested in the original cars, some in the personalities, some in the route and areas visited, and some in the various stories and anecdotes. Touring the original route is more likely to appeal to those looking for something that is much more leisurely than the original event and with ample opportunity for socialising and sightseeing. Original competitors may wish to see the spectacular scenery that they missed because the stages were traversed at night or simply because they were too focused on driving. Some competitors may also want to see stages that they missed. The original route passes through some of Australia’s most spectacular areas and it would be a shame to not take the time to enjoy the scenery and visit some of the many tourist attractions along the way. Others may wish to experience the kinds of stages that comprised the original event – their harshness, remoteness and length.
Why not a competitive rerun?
It is unlikely that a competitive "Round Australia" trial could be organised today. The challenges are numerous. While it would be possible to organise competitive sub-events such as was done with the 2009 Rerun, as soon as the tour contains competition, the costs will rise significantly – pre-event surveying, permits, manned checkpoints, etc. Individuals or groups can tour the original route at minimal cost. It also offers participants maximum flexibility regarding their level of involvement - which stages etc.
How much of the original route is able to be traversed?
An analysis of the original route has found that that most of the original route can be toured. The Seeding Special Stage at Tooborac is considered inaccessible as the area is now part of the Puckapunyal military training area. Three other short stages are no longer in existence – the special stages at Brisbane (Gaven), Sydney (Oran Park) and Canberra (Greenhills Forest) - while the Perth special stage at Wanneroo is no longer available in the original form. Several trial stages in WA are substantially inaccessible. On the sandy stage to Cervantes a new road and national park have obliterated much of the original route. Much of the stage after Newman has been obliterated by a new highway and by mining developments. The iconic Nunyerry Horror Stage with its famous “Chocolate Ruffle Pass” remains accessible but is currently under threat by a proposed new mining railway. The stage after Port Hedland is also likely to be substantially inaccessible due to mining operations and the crossing of a new Aboriginal reserve. The roads on quite a few stages have been upgraded, as might be expected after 40 years, but many have not. Elsewhere there are certainly some short sections that are now inaccessible or bypassed by better roads, but overall it is fair to say that much of the route has not changed as much as people might think! Nevertheless, there will probably be places where the roads are not trafficable and you will need to detour or backtrack.
What about private property etc?
Permission MUST be obtained for some stages to traverse private or leasehold property, mostly in SA and WA. Where possible, this is identified in the stage notes with possible contact phone numbers and/or email addresses. However, you must make your own inquiries in this regard and always obey private property or "no entry" signs unless you have obtained permission.
How difficult will it be to navigate the original route?
For the most part, the original route instructions can be used. Discrepancies and changes have been noted together with exact GPS coordinates of major junctions. With the advent of modern GPS systems and the detailed analysis of the route, it is unlikely that you will stray far from the intended route. In a some places more detailed route charts have been provided.
What maps should we bring?
Other than the actual stages notes and maps, it depends whether you are happy to rely on the kind of maps provided on mobile phones, computers and GPS navigation systems (Google, Here maps etc.) or whether you are of the old fashioned persuasion that likes a printed map. Many of the Hema maps would certainly be useful. On a few of the stages it may be useful to have some detailed topographic maps – this is mentioned in the stage notes.
What will it cost?
This will depend on how much you wish to explore but you should budget for fuel, accommodation and meals, any entry fees (e.g. national parks) and, of course, the provision, maintenance and repair of your own vehicle(s). The overall cost will therefore depend on many factors – your level of involvement, choice of vehicle, choice of accommodation etc.
What cars are suitable?
This depends on which stages you wish to explore. Some stages are very easy and could be done in any road car. The majority of the trial stages would be best done in a rally car or an SUV. The most difficult stages, of which there are about eight, may require a high clearance 4WD in a group and the possibility that other vehicles, such as classic rally cars, may require towing through some sandy sections. Modern SUV vehicles or rally cars (either modern or classic) are likely to be able to do most of the route unassisted.
What equipment should be carried?
Again, it depends on which stages you wish to explore. For easy stages you may need nothing extra than the obvious things like a spare tyre. On some of the more difficult stages it would be wise the carry two spares. This is especially so on the Nullarbor stages and some WA stages where the puncture risk is high. On stages where sand is a challenge you may wish to carry sand extraction equipment (mats, winch etc.) but should also ensure that you have a snatch strap and a suitable attachment point for towing your car through. For the more remote stages, it would be wise to carry emergency food and water as well as a good first aid kit. You may also want to consider carrying a sleeping bag and swag or small tent, in the event of an unexpected bivouac. Finally, the stage notes identify where mobile phone coverage is lacking, which is on most of the remote stages. On these stages it is recommended to have a UHF radio for inter-car communication and to contact local properties. An EPIRB or satphone should also be considered. For the purposes of navigation, the standard odometer in most cars should be adequate, but a GPS based smartphone tripmeter may be preferable. A compass may be useful and a GPS (either dedicated or a smartphone app) that can show lat/long would be useful
What fuel range is required?
There are quite a few places where it is more than 400 km between refuels and some 500+ km fuel ranges. These are detailed in the stage notes. The longest is 586 km between Kingoonya and Nullarbor Roadhouse via Maralinga. Meekatharra to Capricorn Roadhouse is 528 km. Cocklebiddy to Kalgoorlie is 525 km. Kalbarri to Cue is 504 km.
Is 95 or 98 fuel available everywhere?
Probably not in some locations. In many remote refuel locations it is very likely that only ordinary unleaded and diesel will be available. If this is a concern, you should make appropriate enquiries with your planned refuel points in advance.
What accommodation is available?
The notes identify possible stopover points where there is some accommodation available, ranging from cabins to motels to resorts. In a few locations the range is pretty limited, but should be adequate.
Can we camp?
Campsites are available in most towns and the stage notes also identify possible campsites on or near to the stages.
How long will it take?
Doing the entire route is likely to take close to 2 months. Why? The original event took 14 days but not only did crews travel day and night, the pace was very quick. With the aim of travelling only in daylight, the time is immediately almost doubled to 4 weeks minimum. At a more leisurely pace the minimum time stretches further. But as a tour, you will want enough time for relaxing, socialising and sightseeing, so it stretches out to almost 2 months.