London - Sydney Marathon (1968)

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The original Marathon was the result of a lunch in late 1967, during a period of despondency in Britain caused by the devaluation of the pound. Sir Max Aitken, proprietor of the Daily Express and two of his editorial executives, Jocelyn Stevens and Tommy Sopwith, decided to create an event which their newspaper could sponsor, and which would serve to raise the country's spirits. Such an event would, it was felt, act as a showcase for British engineering and would boost export sales in the countries through which it passed.

The initial UK£10,000 (AU$21,429) winner's prize offered by the Daily Express was soon joined by a £3,000 ($6,438) runners-up award and two £2,000 ($4,285) prizes for the third-placed team and for the highest-placed Australians, all of which were underwritten by the Daily Telegraph newspaper and its proprietor Sir Frank Packer, who was eager to promote the Antipodean leg of the race.

The London - Sydney Marathon Route



An eight man organising committee was established to create a suitably challenging but navigable route. Jack Sears, organising secretary and himself a former racing driver, plotted a 7,000 mile course covering eleven countries in as many days. In order to cover the greatest distance overland with the most varied terrain, it was decided to route the rally from London to Dover, then by ferry to Calais and then on to Paris, Turin, Beograd, through Bulgaria to Istanbul and then to Sivas and Erzincan and then to Teheran in Iran, Kabul in Afghanistan, Sarobi in West Pakistan and on to Bombay via Delhi.

The first 72 cars to arrive were to be taken by sea to Fremantle in Western Australia on-board the P&O liner S.S. Chusan, where they would be disembarked and then drive the final 2,600 miles to Sydney. The event received great publicity, and over 800 applications were received, with 100 being accepted (see below).

An Incident Filled Marathon



The first leg of the marathon was the run from Crystal Palace in South London to the Channel port of Dover. Cheering crowds lined the London streets to catch the unforgettable sight of the most international rallying event yet to be staged. The cars were loaded onto the Maid Of Kent ferry and 75 minutes later, disembarked at Calais where the reception hall was jammed with photographers, journalists and well wishers - a phenomenon that was to be repeated across the world.

Leaving at 1 minute intervals, the 98 contestants sped off into the night towards Paris. An unexpected hazard on the road to Paris was thick fog which at times reduced the cars to a walking pace. Ice and freezing fog continued to be a hazard on the early morning run to Turin. French customs men decided to enforce currency export rules and checked all the crews' money at the Mont Blanc tunnel. A number of cars suffered mechanical problems on the Italian leg but the three Citroëns stormed on although one of the teams had their passports given to another team in an hotel in Turin which caused some anguish.

There was an unexpected hazard in Turkey, children throwing rocks at the cars, denting the bodywork and smashing windscreens. By the time the leading cars had reached Sivas, several competitors had dropped out. The first `big killer' stage, the route from Sivas to Erzincan lay ahead. 170 miles/272 km of twisting mountain trail, at night in driving sleet.
Roger Clark broke away from the rest of the field, covering the stage at an average speed of very close to 60 mph/100 kph in his Lotus Cortina for the 170 mile stage. The competitors had a break at Teheran while the cars were handed over to the mechanics prior to the longest single stage of the Marathon, the 1500 miles/2400 km stretch to Kabul through the Elburz mountains. First into Kabul was Harry Firth in a Holden entered by the Sydney Telegraph. Only 33 cars managed to arrive within the allotted time.

The next stage, Kabul - Sairobi - Delhi, added a new hazard - dust. Paddy Hopkirk in his works BMC 1800 lost five minutes on this stage as did Roger Clark who still remained in the lead. The well tarmaced road through the Khyber Pass and into Pakistan presented few problems and surprisingly, both Pakistan and India chose to forget their political differences and co-operate in allowing the competitors to cross the border that had been closed for the previous three years.

Bianchi's Citroen DS 21
Bianchi's DS 21 would soon wrest the lead from Roger Clark...
The nine day voyage to Australia gave the competitors the chance to relax and unwind after the hardships of the previous week. Many of the drivers went down with stomach upsets and the Australian crews decided it was time to put the frighteners on their rivals, describing the perils of dust covered potholes and suicidal kangaroos.

At dawn on Friday, December 13, the Chusan docked at Fremantle and the cars were unloaded. Local police then set about booking 26 of the competitors for mechanical defects and illegal equipment such as sirens and flashing headlamps. The hostility of the police towards the event would continue throughout the remainder of the rally.

The following day, the cars were lined up for a Le Mans style start at Perth's Gloucester Park. Western Australia's Premier David Brand and other celebrities flagged the cars off at three minute intervals. As luck would have it, the Australian teams were the first to encounter kangaroo problems.

The Marathon was turning into a three-cornered race between Roger Clark, Simo Lampinen (The `Flying Finn') in the Ford Taunus and Lucien Bianchi in the DS 21. Unfortunately for Clark, his Lotus Cortina suffered a piston failure and despite cannibalising Eric Jackson's car, he dropped to third place. He made a fantastic recovery however and managed to pass Lampinen and push at Bianchi's lead.

Peter Vanson's DS 21 limped into the Mingary check point with a suspension failure. Bianchi however was still going strong and at Omeo, he had incurred only seven penalty points against Clark's 12 and Lampinen's 40. Lampinen and Staepalarae were booked by the police in Victoria for speeding after a 75 mph/120 kph chase. The police threatened to impound the car at one stage. Soon after leaving the Omeo check point, Clark suffered a broken differential but, encountering a Cortina by the roadside, tried to buy the rear axle. The owner initially refused but then said `You're Roger Clark, the English driver, aren't you?' and parted with his rear axle. After an 80 minute delay at the local garage while the axle was fitted, Clark was once again back in contention.

Bianchi appeared unstoppable. By now he was five points clear of Clark who was lying third. The Taunus then broke a tie rod leaving Andrew Cowan in the Hillman Hunter to assume second place. So confident where Citroen that Bianchi had won the rally that they put a full page advertisement in most of the British newspapers of the day. 

Bianchi's Citroen DS 21 Wreck
Disaster for the DS 21 so close to home...

And then, disaster...



The race was all but won by Bianchi and Ogier. Not far from the Nowra control point, 156 km (98 miles) from Sydney, with Ogier at the wheel and Bianchi dozing in the front seat, the DS 21 hit a Mini head on in a section of road that was supposed to be closed to the public. The DS 21 was wrecked and Bianchi was badly injured.

Paddy Hopkirk arrived on the scene in his Austin 1800 and promptly threw up any chance of winning the rally by turning round and going for help. It was rumoured that the occupants of the Mini were a pair of off-duty policemen who were both `drunk as skunks'.

Hopkirk, the first driver on the scene, gave up his chance of victory when he stopped to tend to the injured and extinguish the flames in the burning cars.

That left Andrew Cowan, who had requested "a car to come last" from the Chrysler factory on the assumption that only half a dozen drivers would even reach Sydney, to take an unexpected victory in his Hillman Hunter and claim the £10,000 prize. Hopkirk finished second, while Aussie Ian Vaughan was third in a factory-entered XT Ford Falcon GT.

A Word On The XT GT Falcon



In competition the XT GT Falcon was not a resounding success - but suprisingly the cars biggest success was in the London - Sydney Marathon. The three car works team led by Harry Firth won the team's prize and the Vaughan/Forsyth/Ellis car finished third. The great strength of the body and the reliability of the engine and transmission had been convincingly demonstrated.

 

London - Sydney Marathon Accepted Entry List / Official Placings



Please Note: You can sort this listing by simply clicking on the column heading

ENTRY CAR DRIVER
1
23

RTS Motorway Remoulds

United Kingdom
Ford Cortina GT B. Bengry
2
8

Ford Motor Co. (Aust)

Australia
Ford Falcon XT GT H.L. Firth
3
DNF

Avon / R.A.F.

United Kingdom
Ford Cortina GT F/O. N. Colman
4
24

British Leyland

United Kingdom
BMC 1800 Mk II T. Fall
5
DNF

R. Lewis

United Kingdom
Chrysler Valiant Estate P. Lumsden
6
DNF
Combined Ins. Co. of America
Australia
Ford Fairmont C.T. Hodgins
7
33
Avtoexport
Soviet Union
Moskvich 408 A. Ipatenko
8
55
AMOCO Australia Ltd.
Australia
Volvo 144S P.H. Winkless
9
DNF
A.A. Bombelli
Switzerland
Ford Lotus Cortina A.A. Bombelli
10
DNF
Royal Green Jackets
United Kingdom
Porsche 911T G. Yannaghas
11
43
Blick Racing Team
Switzerland
Renault 16TS F. Reust
12
11
TVW-7, Daily News, Perth
Australia
Volvo 144S K. Tubman
13
DNF
J.G. Tallis
United Kingdom
Volvo 123GT J.G. Tallis
14
DNF
Ford Deutschland
Germany
Ford 20MRS D. Glemser
15
DNF
G.P. Franklin
Australia
Ford Cortina GT G.P. Franklin
16
DNF
D.A. Corbett
Australia
BMC 1800 D.A. Corbett
17
31
Royal Navy
Australia
BMC 1800 Capt. Hans Hamilton
18
DNF
M.A. Colvill
Australia
Ford Cortina M. Greenwood
19
20
Avtoexport
Soviet Union
Moskvich 408 S. Tenishev
20
38
Avtoexport
Soviet Union
Moskvich 408 V. Schavelev
21
DNF
Hillcrest Motor Co.
United Kingdom
Morris 1800 B.G. Williams
22
DNF
G. Baghetti
Italy
Lancia Flavia 1800 Coupe G. Baghetti
23
DNF
P.R.H. Wilson
United Kingdom
Ford Corsair 2000E P.R.H. Wilson
24
3
Ford Motor Co. (Aust)
Australia
Ford Falcon XT GT I.M. Vaughan
25
DNF
Chesson Lydden Circuit LaTrobe
United Kingdom
Volvo 122S -
26
DNF
M.J.C. Taylor
United Kingdom
Mercedes 280SE M.J.C. Taylor
27
DNF
F. Goulden
United Kingdom
Triumph 2000 F. Goulden
28
DNF
A. Gorshenin
Australia
Mercedes 280SL A. Gorshenin
29
6
Ford Motor Co. (Aust)
Australia
Ford Falcon XT GT B. Hodgson
30
17
Dutch National Team
Netherlands
DAF 55 R. Slotemaker
31
21
BMC Australia
Australia
BMC 1800 MkII E. Green
32
18
Capt. F. Barker
United Kingdom
Mercedes 280S Capt. F. Barker
33
41
Miss E. Gadd
United Kingdom
Volvo 145S Estate Miss E. Gadd
34
DNF
K. Brierley
United Kingdom
Ford Lotus Cortina K. Brierley
35
DNF
R.A. Buchanan-Michaelson
United Kingdom
Mercedes 280SE R.A. Buchanan-Michaelson
36
DNF
Sydney Telegraph Car 1
Australia
Holden HK Monaro GTS D. McKay
37
DNF
W.D. Cresdee
United Kingdom
BMC 1300 Estate W.D. Cresdee
38
DNF
Ford Motor Co.
United Kingdom
Ford Lotus Cortina B. Soderstrom
39
18
Addison Motors
Australia
Alfa Romeo 1750 Berlina S. McLeod
40
52
Jim Russell I.R. Driving School
United Kingdom
Vauxhall Ventora D. Walker
41
50
Sydney Telegraph Car 4
Australia
Morris 1100 Miss E. Westley
42
DNF
P.G. Graham
United Kingdom
Ford Cortina Savage V6 P.G. Graham
43
13
AMOCO (Aust) Pty. Ltd.
Australia
Volvo 144S A. Welinski
44
44
British Army Motoring
United Kingdom
Rover 2000TC Major M. Bailey
45
32
RAF Motorsports Assoc.
United Kingdom
Hillman Hunter Flt. Lt. D. Carrington
46
40
Simca Motors
France
Simca 1100 B. Hew
47
42
Nova Magazine
United Kingdom
MGB Mrs J. Denton
48
10
Ford Motor Co.
United Kingdom
Ford Lotus Cortina Roger Clark
49
DNF
Major P.S. Ekholdt
Norway
SAAB 96 V4 Major P.S. Ekholdt (withdrawn)
50
DNF
Ford Motor Co.
United Kingdom
Ford Lotus Cortina N. Brittan
51
2
British Leyland
United Kingdom
BMC 1800 MkII P. Hopkirk
52
DNF
J. Sprinzel
United Kingdom
MG Midget J. Sprinzel
53
46
S.H. Dickson
USA
Rambler American S.H. Dickson
54
37
British Army Motoring
United Kingdom
Rover 2000TC Major J. Hemsley
55
15
E.G. Hermann
Germany
Porsche 911 E.G. Hermann
56
25
A.J. Percy
United Kingdom
SAAB Estate A.J. Percy
57
16
Ford Deutschland
Germany
Ford 20MRS G. Staepelaere
58
DNF
S. Zasada
Poland
Porsche 911S S. Zasada
59
DNF
Porsche Cars GB Ltd.
United Kingdom
Porsche 911 T. Hunter
60
35
Terry Thomas
United Kingdom
Ford Cortina 1600E P.R. Capelin
61
5
British Leyland
United Kingdom
BMC 1800 Mk II R. Aaltonen
62
26
D. Praznovszky
Australia
Mercedes 200D D. Praznovszky
63
DNF
AMOCO (Aust) Ltd.
Australia
Volvo 142S R.J. Holden
64
19
Evan Cook
United Kingdom
BMC 1800 Flt. Lt. J.T. Kingsley
65
DNF
Hydraulic Machinery Ltd.
United Kingdom
Morris 1800 G.D. White
66
DNF
T.E. Buckingham
United Kingdom
Ford Cortina GT T.E. Buckingham
67
DNF
C.J. Woodley
United Kingdom
Vauxhall Ventora C.J. Woodley
68
14
Sydney Telegraph Car 3
Australia
Holden HK Monaro GTS D. Whiteford
69
56
Dutch National Team
Netherlands
DAF 55 D. van Lennep
70
34
Wilson's Motor Caravan Centre
United Kingdom
BMC 1800 A.H. Wilson
71
28
Vantona Everwear Ltd.
United Kingdom
Austin 1800 B.L. Field
72
29
E. McMillen
United Kingdom
Ford Lotus Cortina E. McMillen
73
DNF
Ford Motor Co.
United Kingdom
Ford Lotus Cortina E. Jackson
74
9
R. Neyret
France
Citroen DS21 R. Neyret
75
1
Rootes Motors
United Kingdom
Hillman Hunter A. Cowan
76
12
Sydney Telegraph Car 2
Australia
Holden HK Monaro GTS B. Ferguson
77
36
Big 'N' Cash & Carry Group
United Kingdom
BMC 1800 R. Eaves
78
45
Supersport Engines Ltd.
United Kingdom
Ford Escort J.R. Gavin
79
51
P.A. Downs
United Kingdom
Volkswagen 114 P.A. Downs
80
DNF
L. M. Large
United Kingdom
BMW L.M. Large (withdrawn)
81
DNF
Dr. B. Wadia
India
Ford Lotus Cortina Dr. B. Wadia
82
53
D.G. Bray
United Kingdom
Ford Lotus Cortina D.G. Bray
83
27
Kentredder (Ireland) Ltd.
Ireland
Peugeot 404 injection J.E. Cotton
84
DNF
K. Schellenberg
United Kingdom
Bentley 1930 Sports Tourer K. Schellenberg
85
DNF
Tecalemit Ltd.
United Kingdom
Ford Lotus Cortina - Twin Cam P. Harper
86
DNF
Pan Aust. Unit Trust
United Kingdom
BMW 2000 C.D. Forsythe
87
DNF
Citroen Cars
France
Citroen DS21 L. Bianchi
88
DNF
Simca Motors
France
Simca 1100 R. Masson
89
DNF
Longlife Group
United Kingdom
Ford Cortina R. Clark
90
30
British Army Motoring
United Kingdom
Ford Lotus Cortina Capt. D. Harrison
91
54
Maitland Motors
Australia
Holden HK Auto J. Murray
92
7
Ford Deutschland
Germany
Ford 20MRS H.E. Kleint
93
48
Henry Ford and Son
Ireland
Ford Lotus Cortina Miss R. Smith
94
DNF
Automobile Club de France
France
Citroen DS21 J. Lemerle
95
DNF
N. Koga
Japan
Vauxhall Viva GT N. Koga
96
DNF
R. Rogers
United Kingdom
Ford Cortina 1600E R. Rogers
97
DNF
Lunwin Products Pty. Ltd.
Australia
Ford Falcon XT GT R.G. Lunn
98
22
Avtoexport
Soviet Union
Moskvich 408 U. Aava
99
49
17/21st Lancers
United Kingdom
Land Rover 2WD Lt. M.G. Thompson
100
DNF
Simca Motors
France
Simca 1100 P. Boucher
 
Paddy Hopkirk's BMC 1800
With Hydrolastic suspension working over-time, Paddy Hopkirk's BMC 1800 jumps its way across darkest Afghanistan
towards Bombay and two weeks rest before the savage Australian sections...
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