The Kleber Alpine Rally was held on November 26-28. Jeff Beaumont tells the story.
1976 LCCA Kleber Alpine Rally
The 1976 Alpine Rally was a stand-alone event, now having International status. Ian Richards and the organising team had developed plenty of experience in running such a high profile rally, with spot-on organization that equalled Australia’s best major rallies.
Eighty-five crews faced the starter outside the TV Studio of Channel 10 at Forest Hill, then headed on a transport run to Bonnie Doon, followed by the first competitives through the Strathbogie Ranges, Warrenbayne Plantation and Reef Hills Forest where a large number of spectators had gathered.
Greg Carr and Wayne Gregson in the Datsun 710 had already opened up a lead, which they never relinquished. Ross Jackson / Peter Berriman led a tight bunch of crews for the minor placings, which included young foresters Geoff Portman and Ross Runnalls.
From Benalla the field headed across into the traditional plantation territory and on to Bright for the overnight break.
The Bright Dirt Circuit was used at the start of Division 2, where Greg Carr threw the Datsun around in fine style to collect fastest time. Ken Cusack entertained with his big Monaro spraying gravel everywhere in spectacular fashion.
The rally proceeded to Merriang, where 125 kilometers of competitive stages were squeezed into this forest, giving spectators outstanding viewing action for many hours. Hurdle Creek and Running Creek followed, with Greg Carr extending his lead, with the young foresters matching top times. Bruce Hodgson had turned up the wick in his Escort, closely followed by Ian Swan / Graham Vaux and Chris Power / Ian Heraud.
In past years the Alpine had run up over the Alps but not this year. The event remained mostly in the plantations and forests around Beechworth, for the benefit of spectators and was a popular format for the competitors.
The Saturday night division became quite dramatic, with the leader Greg Carr, hitting a kangaroo, smashing his driving lights and breaking the radiator. He was forced to limp almost 20 km to the service point, luckily with minimal points loss.
Also in trouble were Dave Morrow / George Shepheard, whose Gemini wore substantial marks on the bonnet, after fading brakes caused them to hit a road sign.
The valiant effort of Portman / Runnalls ended shortly after. Initially suffering electrical problems, they then crashed into Jackson / Berriman who had just returned from a wrong road. Hoddo was next to retire with steering failure.
Graham Horsefield / Geoff O’Donnell had moved their Datsun 240Z up through the field by the end of the night division, as did Gil Davis / David Long.
After a brief sleep at Bright, the field started the final stages on Sunday morning with another burst around the wetted-down Bright circuit.
Many spectators had assembled in the Bright and Braithwaites plantations, where the crews re-ran some of Saturday’s stages.
As a final burst, the 55 km run through Ovens Plantation was a fitting climax to this excellent and challenging event. The weary but jubilant crew of Greg Carr and Wayne Gregson had dominated the rally for a second year and sprayed the champagne at the finish in Bright. It was interesting to note that they won the Kleber Alpine Rally on the sponsor’s tyres!