The North Eastern Rally was held on March 12.
ARC Round 1 – 1977 North Eastern Rally
Jeff Beaumont’s account…
The major change for the 1977 ARC Series was the amendment to eligibility regulations that now permitted virtually all cars to enter and compete for awards. This overcame the weird situation of last year that saw the Datsun 710 not eligible for points and awards.
And it now allowed some interesting vehicles to compete, including a Turbo Gemini, Portman’s Grunter 1600 and Murray Coote’s 1800 cc engined Datsun 120Y. This would certainly make the series far more competitive, particularly for private entries, allowing them to fight for outright positions.
In a move that still defies logic, the 1976 Australian Rally Champions Ross Dunkerton and Jeff Beaumont were advised that Nissan only wanted to run one car in the 1977 Championship and that car would be the Datsun 710 for Fury / Suffern.
Yes, they were sacked immediately after winning the Australian Rally Championship!
So undeterred, Ross dragged his old 1975 winning 260Z out of the shed and began preparing the car for the 1977 ARC series. A few “good bits“ were made available from Nissan’s Braeside Competition Department.
The first round for 1977 was the North Eastern Rally, very well organized by the local NECC club. It attracted an outstanding full field of 60 top class cars. The event allowed plenty of good spectator venues in the surrounding plantations.
Right from the start, Dave Morrow / George Shepheard were posting very fast and impressive times in their HDT Gemini, now fitted with a turbocharged engine. Fury’s 710 and Dunkerton’s 260Z were battling hard for 2nd place, with Portman/Runnalls close behind.
Bob Waterhouse / Paul Patterson were posting quick times until they rolled out of the event. Bob Watson’s 120Y was accidently filled with water at a refuel point, finishing his progress.
Greg Carr was making the debut of the new Ford Rally Team but his new RS2000 Escort suffered rear axle failure.
Dean Rainsford, with Adrian Mortimer were now running a SAAB 99 but they suffered alternator problems, dropping them back in the field.
And Peter Janson spectacularly rolled his Lancer after a fine run.
Meanwhile the quick Gemini was being chased hard by the two Datsuns, until Fury’s diff gave up. A determined Dunkerton got within a single minute of Morrow’s HDT Gemini, with Portman just a couple of minutes behind.
It had been an amazing rally and certainly confirmed that the new eligibility regulations were successful. The Australian Rally Championship had certainly come alive and would be even more competitive now with the formation of the new Ford Team run by Colin Bond with lead driver Greg Carr. BDA Escorts were on their way!