The 1970s

Decade in review

Rallying comes of age

The 1970s was a decade of massive transition for rallying in Victoria. In 1970 the “half” round Australia Ampol Trial was run, passing through Victoria. This, combined with the impetus of the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon, the emergence of the international Southern Cross Rallies (which had run in Victoria in 1966-68) and the first three years (68-70) of the ARC being won by Victorians (Firth, Kilfoyle and Watson), created great interest in rallying by Victorian enthusiasts.

Each year there were more clubs running events and more competitors keen to complete. By mid- decade there were around 100 rallies being conducted in Victoria annually, many with big fields of entrants. On some weekends there were four or five events being conducted.

The Victorian Rally Championship was strong, attracting solid fields including works entries in many years and a second level Clubman Series was soon introduced. Club level competition was intense with several interclub series emerging. The state also attracted the unique Dulux Rally in 1971 and 72.

But rallying was also changing in other ways as the emphasis on navigation evident at the start of the decade gradually receded. The last of the BP Rallies was run in 1973 and by the end of the decade most VRC events were fully route charted. In 1974 the state had its first real closed road special stage rally, the RACV 500 followed by the Holden Dealers Rallies in 1975 and 1976, all largely due to the availability of the APM forests in central Gippsland. The state’s premier event, the annual Alpine Rally, rose to international status and from 1978 was also a special stage event.

The 1970s was also the era of Group G vehicles, a largely “open slather” formula that made rallying relatively cheap, with the most common car being the Datsun 1600.

And to complete the decade and give a further boost to rallying, 1979 saw the running of Australia’s toughest long distance rally, the Repco Reliability Trial, capturing the imagination of enthusiasts and the public alike.

Portman Runnalls George Derrick 1976
Portman and Runnalls in the 1976 George Derrick Memorial Trial [Photo: Bruce Keys]