The Alpine Rally was held on 10-11 November.
1979 LCCA Alpine International Rally
The factory Ford Team finished 1979 in fine style with a 1-2 outright result in the Alpine International Rally.
Stuart Lister was the event Director and the rally was based at Bright and run over 500 km of special stages timed to the second. Of the 100 plus entries, 96 crews faced the starter at Bright in sunny conditions, with a large contingent of spectators present.
Greg Carr and Fred Gocentas never put a wheel wrong in their RS 1800 Escort, and won by over 3 minutes from Team Boss Colin Bond / John Dawson-Damer. This rally proved to be an excellent shakedown for Carr and Gocentas, who left immediately to fly to England for their start in the RAC Rally of Britain.
Third outright was rapidly improving Victorian crew of Hugh Bell / Damien O’Reilly in their Pedders Datsun 1600, who impressively won seven special stages.
The current Victorian Champions Warwick Smith / Paul Paterson finished in a good sixth place after a relatively trouble free run in their Rallyquip Lancer. They were followed home by Norm Crofts / Steve Bartal in a Datsun 1600.
Expected to fight for outright honours was the Datsun P510 of Portman / Runnalls. Sadly their motor gave problems right from the start and they retired at the end of the first competitive stage, through Porpunkah.
This stage was followed by Ovens Plantation, a 12 km drag up to “ The Tank “ where the factory Escorts demonstrated their uphill “ grunt “.
After a short service near Myrtleford, it was into Stanley Plantation for 10 Special Stages in a series of loops, with the Escorts comfortable out in front. Wayne Bell’s challenge evaporated when his HDT Gemini ran out of fuel !
Victorian crews were challenging, with Chris and Simon Brown running third at the first break after Bond had a puncture. Whilst Bruce Wilson and Phil Rodgers, both in Datsuns, were having a good run, Bob Watson suffered overheating in his turbo Peugeot, then lost third gear but continued on.
Division 2 headed towards the Koetong/Shelly area, for nine special stages . Dust was becoming an issue and Mick Ellis / Jim Maude rolled themselves out of the event.
The Railway Block stages, a combination of overgrown tracks and fast, open forest roads saw Hugh Bell quickest by just one second from Greg Carr.
At Division end at Wodonga, the Fords led the Browns and Bell. Despite his problems Bob Watson was running in seventh place.
The night Division started at Barnawatha and headed to Chiltern forests. Chris and Simon Brown ended their excellent run when they broke the steering box after hitting a bank and retired.
Dust was still a major problem, with no wind to clear brown air. Garry Harrowfield came to a sad end after he rolled his Datsun in front of spectators.
A couple of long stages at 50 and 27 kms were real brake-burners. The two factory cars clearly demonstrated their credentials and led comfortably from Hugh Bell, Tony Masling and Chris Randall.
The final Division started on Sunday morning, with a contrast of weather conditions. The heavens had opened and the rain continued non-stop, all day.
Greg Carr thrilled the crowds with his sideways action at Bright Speedway. However, Colin Bond was neater and pipped his driver by just a single second.
Conditions in the Plantations were awfully slippery, where Jim Uttleymoore slipped into a bank and became bogged. Most crews dropped maximum penalties due to the conditions.
With 60% of the final stages under water, the Directors were forced to make a few late cancellations. Even Carr / Gocentas dropped significant time but held on to win the rally by over three minutes, from team boss Colin Bond, followed by Hugh Bell in an outstanding third place.