The Holden Dealers International was held on October 30-31.
1976 Holden Dealers International
This was the second of the two Holden Dealers International Rallies held predominantly in the forests around Moe and Traralgon. These, together with the 1974 RACV 500, were the first true closed road special stage events in Victoria with timing to the second. Unlike the 1974 and 75 events which utilised private roads in the APPM plantation, the 1976 event used more traditional forestry and shire roads, all closed to the public as would be expected of a daylight special stage event. In the fact the event was almost cancelled several months beforehand when APPM withdrew permission over insurance concerns, but quick work by the organising team saw the event recast and run successfully. A feature of the 1976 edition was a run up the Morewell Hillclimb.
The event attracted a high quality field including two works Datsun 710s for Shekhar Mehta and George Fury, with a similar car for Greg Carr under the Gerry Ball Tuning banner. Colin Bond was in the MHDT Gemini. But it was Carr who emerged on top by a significant margin.
Jeff Beaumont’s story…
With navigator Fred Gocentas, Carr finished over 8 minutes in front of second placegetters George Fury / Monty Suffern a similar Datsun 710.
Rounding off Datsun’s domination of the Rally, Shekhar Mehta with Jeff Beaumont brought home their Datsun 710 in third place.
This Holden Dealers’ Rally was based out of Moe and ran in the generally flat and sandy country of Central Gippsland. The rally consisted of four short Divisions, with a total of 38 special stages. All stages were run in daylight, with optimal spectator participation.
The Rally was timed to the second, with a maximum penalty on each competitive stage.
Whilst the rally attracted an overflow entry, the nine reserves eventually got a run together with the original 50 accepted entries.
Missing from the starting list were German Archim Warmbold, Ross Dunkerton and Geoff Portman / Ross Runnalls who had vehicle troubles at the last minute.
The Rally got underway at Moe on Saturday morning, with seven stages to be run.
Carr got into his stride immediately with fastest on five, from Mehta and Watson with one each. Colin Bond, in the 2.2 litre Gemini, was in trouble early when he had to winch back on after an “ off “.
Bob Waterhouse and Tony Walsham were running well until they hit the side of a bridge and damaged their suspension. They repaired the damage and continued in the event.
By the lunchbreak Greg Carr held a 31 second lead over Fury, with Mehta a further 36 seconds behind. The magnificent Lancia Stratos of Ron Marks was in fourth place and ahead Bob Watson, going like a train in Ian Wilson’s little ( big engine ) Colt Fatback. Chris Power and Roger Bonhomme followed.
A few clock issues clouded the afternoon stages but the top crews cleaned most of the stages which were run on fairly straight and fast roads. Gil Davis blew his clutch and retired.
Division three on Sunday ran over 18 special stages, with 210 competitive kilometers. The start saw Greg Carr on narrow, wet weather tyres, hoping to get down into the loose, sandy surfaces, better than the wider dry tyres.
The excitement began on the second special stage when most of the field, including George Fury went off on a tricky corner. However times were neutralized, so Carr still held just a slender lead.
Then Ron Marks and Adrian Mortimer came to grief on a tricky right hander hander after a long straight. The exotic Stratos hit a tree heavily, with substantial damage to the vehicle but fortunately just light bruising to the crew.
Meanwhile Fury and Mehta both hit a large log on the edge of the road. Navigator Jeff Beaumont rapidly made temporary repairs to the front end of Mehta’s 710 and they lost minimal time, then received more permanent repairs at the next service point.
Bob Watson was driving brilliantly in the little Colt and was in fourth place, battling with Colin Bond for the placing behind the impressive 710 Datsuns.
Moving into the top group were Ian Smith / Jim Maude in the Autopix Datsun, chasing Ian Swan. They eventually finished just 16 seconds apart.
The final Division was short, with a bitumen hillclimb and three short gravel special stages. Cars ran up Morwell Hillclimb twice, with plenty of action. Roger Bonhomme and others spun, whilst Colin Bond threw around the Gemini as if it was a gravel stage.
Fury even fitted tarmac tyres in order to try and gain an advantage.
Shekhar Mehta was most spectacular, backing the 710 into the top corner of the hillclimb without contacting the fencing.. just !
Greg Carr won the final gravel stage, prior to the finish at Moe.