The Otway Trial was held on 25 February. Jeff Beaumont tells the story:
VRC Round 1 ’ 78 WDCC Otway Trial
The first round of the 1978 Victorian Rally Championship was The Otway Trial, directed by Barry Burt on behalf of the Western Districts Car Club. The rally totalled 250 kilometres of a variety of roads and conditions through the Otway Ranges, with tight scores showing the limitations of minute timing with such close competition.
From the start at Waurn Ponds Hotel, the field headed for the first competitive just north of Anglesea, where most of the top crews cleaned the 40 km stage. However it saw the retirement of Alf Pearce with a blown diff and Gil Davis in his “new“ HR Holden with overheating issues.
A quick rundown Seaview Road to the service point was followed by 20 km then 28 km competitives along Garvey’s Track and the rough Thompson’s Track. Losses were minimal and at the Mt Sabine division break the leaders were Jim Uttleymoore / Tony Bond from Warwick Smith / Paul Patterson and the Richards.
Next was a brief run down Turtons Track, 10 km of superb, twisty gravel. Uttleymoore lost the chance of victory when his navigator misplaced their road card!
Next was 24 km of fantastic tight, smooth roads through the Aire Valley Plantation, then a confusing turn right instruction caused problems for many crews. A 20 km loop in Webster Hill Planation saw Armitage setting the pace out front in the dusty conditions.
A rough and sandy section up Pipeline Road and down Gold Hole Road led to a service and refuel break. Most of the field cleaned the next section but fog then became a problem into the finish at Mount Sabine.
John Armitage / Phil Rainer had won the second division and the final scores saw them equal winners with Warwick Smith / Paul Paterson, a good start to the season.