History will be repeated when the competitors in this year’s CAMS Australian Rally Championship® face the starters flag in Ballarat on Friday 17 March.
On March 1, 1970, a strong field of 37 top crews from Victoria, NSW, SA and the ACT also faced the starters flag at the Ballarat Civic Centre, witnessed by a large crowd
The crews were contesting the first heat of the 1970 National Rally Championship, the Escort sponsored Eureka Rally organised by the Ballarat branch of the Light Car Club of Australia. (LCCA).
The crews represented several manufacturer teams including the debut of a pair of Torana XU1’s and a Monaro for the Holden Dealer Team, a brace of Morris 1500’s for the British Leyland Works Team and Mitsubishi entered three Colt 1500’s and a Colt 1100. The defending Australian Champions, Ford Motor Company, did not field a team so several Ford Cortina GT’s and a dealer entered Capri from SA uphold FoMoCo honour. And Renault Australia debuted a pair of Renault Gordini’s. These were the days when a rally win on the weekend translated into sales in dealership on Monday, so manufacturer involvement was strong.
There was also strong representation from Dealer entered cars and it was the Winter and Taylor Holden entered Torana crewed by Graham Alexander/Peter Hass who lead the field away from the start.
In 1970 rallies were a test of the vehicles reliability and the navigator’s skill in map reading along with the cars speed and the stamina of the crew. The first Eureka rally traveled as far west as the Grampians with a fuel break at Ararat using a combination of rough, pot holed shire roads and some forest stages. Interestingly, the rally was covered live on Ballarat’s Radio 3BA from the refuel at Ararat.
But much has changed in the intervening 40+ years. There are no Torana’s or Monaro’s from the HDT or other factory entries from Renault, British Leyland or Mitsubishi. Instead the event will have a manufacturer entry from Subaru Australia and privateers in Mini Coopers, Toyota Corolla’s, Mitsubishi Lancers and a gaggle of private Subaru’s. The rally course will be a mere snip of an event compared to the first Eureka Rally with just 240 km of competitive stages in the Wombat and Cheswick forests north of Ballarat. The wining crew will be the fastest to complete the course and there will be no navigational tricks. But with such strong rally DNA this year’s event will be as hotly contested as the first Eureka Rally!
“The CAMS Australian Rally Championship is proud to welcome an event with such a strong connection to rallying in this country back to the national championship and we look forward to being in Ballarat to present the Golden Anniversary event in 2020”, Event Manager Katie Philps said.”
And for the record, the 1970 Eureka Rally was won by Bob Watson driving a Renault Gordini. Watson went on the win the championship that year.