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 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.
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.