Article by Rob Turner, originally published 1993 in the RCCACT magazine Roverview.
Photos provided by Rob Turner, John Cummings, Andrew Egginton, Tony Cope & Tim Pearce.
Five Rovers took part in the 1993 London to Sydney Marathon Rally, including two Rover P6 & one P6B:
• Freddie Preston – 1968 Rover 2000TC P6 (UK)
• Tim & Miles Pearce – 1968 Rover 2000TC P6 (UK)
• Tom & Darkie Barr-Smith – 1968 Rover 3500 P6B (Australia)
• Go Wammes & Wim Koningsveld – 1968 Rover 3.5 Litre P5B Saloon (Holland)
• Richard Martin Hurst – 1968 Rover 3.5 Litre P5B Saloon (UK)
The Lombard London to Sydney Marathon Rally started out on 17 April 1993 finishing at the Sydney Opera House on 16 May 1993. The route took competitors across Europe to Ankara, Turkey. From Ankara, two giant Russian Antanov transporters airlifted all the cars to Delhi, India. The field then drove south to Bombay, where the Antanov transporters again airlifted the cars to Perth, Western Australia.
From Perth, the cars remaining in the rally headed east to Esperance, thence to Kalgoorlie, across the Nullarbor Plain using the original unmade road. Other major towns passed were Port Augusta, Broken Hill, Wangaratta and Canberra, to the finish in Sydney, New South Wales.
For the avid motoring enthusiast, electronic and print media coverage of the event in Australia was abysmal. Apart from television coverage of the start and finish, the only other time there was a mention on television was the unfortunate death of one of the Australian Drivers of a Holden Monaro in Turkey, after a bus collided with the car.
The encounter at Bright, Victoria
My encounter with the Rally can only provide a brief window of the event, but for me, a possibly never to be repeated experience of a lifetime. Details of the rally as it proceeded across Australia was poor; it was not until Thursday 13 May 1993 that I received a phone call from a friend and fellow motoring enthusiast in Benalla, Victoria, that the Rally would be passing through nearby Wangaratta, thence across to Bright for a refuelling and meal stop. Fast moving on my part enabled me to secure a sleeping berth to and from Benalla, 385 miles south of my home town, on the (former) overnight train The Melbourne Express.
The following Saturday, we set off at dawn for the one hour drive to Bright, a beautiful town close to the Victorian ski resorts of Mt Buffalo and Falls Creek. The rally was initially engaged this morning with a competitive stage near Wangaratta before driving across to Bright. We had our first encounter at the wine making town of Millawa. We paused to be overtaken by several mid-1960’s Ford Escorts, Volvo 122’s and Porsches, all sounding extremely healthy.
Upon our arrival at Bright, we noted that the AA (Automobile Association of the United Kingdom) had followed the rally and provided back-up service & support with several (then) new Ford Mondeos, a model not yet released in Australia in 1993. Another service vehicle well out of its normal territory was an NRMA (New South Wales) service utility. The Ford Mondeos and all the Rally cars carried an AA sticker with the caption:
Only AA patrols get down under!
There had been some fog and it had been a very fresh 2 degrees. By the time the rally cars started to arrive in Bright at about 9 am, there was some welcome warm sunshine. Amongst the first cars was the ultimate first place-getter, Francis Tuthill with his Porsche 911.
The ensuing two hours were magnificent organised chaos as the cars refuelled at the local service stations before continuing on. We were very fortunate to be able to observe the cars and competitors at close hand. Some of my random observations were that most of the Volvos had dents of varying severity, including more than the odd bashed door, most likely caused by side impact with the odd gum tree; some cars had temporary windscreens; many cars had the odd dent, but many cars had remarkably straight bodies; one had to marvel at the little Dutch Daf 55 with Variomatic transmission which was obviously performing very well (and without dents!) The spirit of the rally can be summed up by a comment of the lady navigator of a Triumph 2000. The car had mechanical problems, but when asked how she was coping, her comment was “I am having a ball!”
The first Rover to arrive in Bright was a 3.5 Litre P5B Saloon driven by Go Wammes and Wim Koningsveld from Holland. This car, which had a Rover SD1 5-speed manual gearbox, was very straight.
Next in was the Rover 3500 P6B saloon driven by Australians Tom and Darkie Barr-Smith. This car also had an SD1 5-speed manual gearbox and sported a substantial bull bar on the front. This car also had very straight panels.
Freddie Preston and his co-driver from the United Kingdom were not far behind with their Rover 2000TC. Freddie’s 2000TC had a couple of broken headlights, but worse, the bootlid and rear bumper bar had been badly reshaped. While travelling on a horror stretch on the Nullarbor Plain, severe bull dust was encountered. He slowed, as visibility was poor, but the following rally car, a Volvo, ran into the back of the 2000. One of Freddie’s remarks was “my memory of the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon Rally (in Australia) was the bulldust and gum trees. It hasn’t changed!” Another pressing problem with Freddie’s 2000TC was a worrying rattle in the rear end. The car was placed on the hoist at the garage; it was found that the differential was being held in place by one bolt instead of three. Locating the correct size bolts unfortunately cost him about two hours.
Tim and Miles Pearce from the United Kingdom, Rover 2000TC, had arrived shortly after Freddy Preston. Their P6 had fared better, as apart from the expected grime which all the Rally cars carried, only had a couple of minor creases in one front wing. Tim had written to me seven months prior to the rally, seeking climatic and geographic information for the Australian part of the rally. Their 2000TC had performed very well. Tim remarked to me that the Indian Leg of the journey was far worse than expected, the heat was dreadful, and there were many traffic jams with long convoys of lorries.
All the rally cars had departed Bright by about 11 am. Their last overnight stop was in Canberra, the Australian Capital.
Additional photos taken at Bright, Victoria
Photos by Rob Turner.
There was one other Rover that I did not see at Bright, Richard Martin-Hurst’s 1968 3.5 Litre P5B Saloon. However, all five Rovers successfully completed the rally in Sydney, New South Wales.