Cars, cars, cars - Mans­field the mo­tor­ing Mecca

Mansfield Courier - - OPINIONS/ PEOPLE - By DAVID MIMS

BARELY had the waft of su­per oc­tane fuel and sounds of high pow­ered mo­tors from Targa sub­sided, when Mans­field was again in­un­dated with high per­for­mance cars.

This time it was the his­tor­i­cal gold an­niver­sary run of the once iconic South­ern Cross Rally, which stayed in Mans­field last Tues­day night.

Around 30 ve­hi­cles ar­rived from Al­bury on the Tues­day af­ter­noon and stayed overnight on the sec­ond leg of their 12 day rally from Al­bury to Coffs Har­bour.

One of Aus­tralian ral­ly­ing’s most fa­mous events, the South­ern Cross Rally was run from 1966 to 1980.

It was Aus­tralia’s first truly in­ter­na­tional rally, at­tract­ing top fac­tory teams and the world’s best rally driv­ers, and over its 15-year history, the clas­sic rally at­tracted the world’s top fac­tory teams and driv­ers.

2016 cel­e­brates the 50th an­niver­sary of the first South­ern Cross Rally held in 1966.

De­part­ing Mans­field on Wed­nes­day, the driv­ers headed for Sale in Gipp­s­land via Jamieson and Eil­don, then to Can­berra and Syd­ney.

From there they mo­tored up to Port Mac­quarie and fin­ish in Coffs Har­bour this Satur­day, Novem­ber 19, co­in­cid­ing with the run­ning of Rally Aus­tralia, the fi­nal round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Cham­pi­onship.

This is a to­tal of 3000km for the field, with 40 timed com­pet­i­tive stages along the way.

One par­tic­i­pant i s Steve Mar­row, who drives a works car replica, the rarest ve­hi­cle in the rally, a Mit­subishi GTO Galant.

“The GTO was never re­leased in Aus­tralia, and there are less than 10 in the coun­try,” Mr Mar­row said.

“It has had an ex­treme re­build which I fin­ished three months ago, us­ing orig­i­nal parts sourced from all over the world.”

He went on to ex­plain the GTO Galant two-door was a Mit­subishi Works car orig­i­nally built for six time South­ern Cross Rally win­ner, Scots­man An­drew Cowan.

How­ever, due to sta­bil­ity is­sues with no built-in roll-bar, the driver raced and won with the four-door model.

Mr Mar­row, who has com­peted in many rallys (but not the orig­i­nal South­ern Cross), is a liv­ing, driv­ing ex­am­ple of some won­der­ful history at­tached to many of the ve­hi­cles com­pet­ing.

Some­one who did com­pete, and won, the very last com­pet­i­tive rally in 1980, Ross Dunker­ton, is re­trac­ing his steps in this 50th an­niver­sary run.

Back in 1980 he pi­loted his Dat­sun Stanza to vic­tory with nav­i­ga­tor Jeff Beau­mont, and was back in a Dat­sun, this time with his wife.

“Things have changed a bit since then (1980), as far as cars, and also the rules and reg­u­la­tions with rally driv­ing on open roads,” Mr Dunker­ton said.

“But it’s great to be back to re-live the mem­o­ries.”

For car en­thu­si­asts, it’s cer­tainly been a busy time in Mans­field over the past two weeks.

HISTORY ON WHEELS: Rally driver Steve Mar­row with his re­built Mit­subishi works replica of the GTO Galant, of which there are fewer than 10 in Aus­tralia.

RE­TRAC­ING STEPS: Ross Dunker­ton won the very last South­ern Cross Rally in 1980, and was back re­liv­ing some mem­o­ries in the 50th an­niver­sary com­mem­o­ra­tive run.

PHOTOS: David Mims

LINED UP: Some of the cars lined up wait­ing to head out to­wards Jamieson and Eil­don on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, on their way to Sale.

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