I have just finished reading Robert Connor’s book “The 1968 London To Sydney Marathon”. I mentioned previously that I had just bought this book. The book is written in the fashion of a number of individual, yet connected, stories about the different competitors. The story that I found most interesting, although I already knew part of the story, was that about how the rally was lost while the leading car was just cruising to the finish line.
For most of the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon the leading car was the Cortina driven by Roger Clark and Ove Andersson. However 56 miles south of Omeo the rear differential in the Cortina broke down. Clark was able to find a Cortina owned by local person and buy the rear differential from that local, make the differential change, and carry on in the rally, but the time lost moved the Clark/Andersson team down to 14th place.
Final Few Legs Of The 1968 London To Sydney Marathon
As result of Clark’s misfortune, first place then fell into the hands of the Citroen team of Lucien Bianchi and Jean-Claude Ogier. When they started the last timed competitive stage between Hindmarsh and Nowra, Bianchi/Ogier had 11 points in hand, over the second place team of Andrew Cowan/Colin Malkin/Brian Coyle in a Hillman Hunter. This was considered a substantial cushion for Bianchi/Ogier and about all they had to was drive from the start to the finish of this stage.
Bianchi/Ogier Ten Miles From Disaster
The last stage was essential closed to the public because of the rally. The New South Wales police obsessed about rally cars speeding and often followed right behind the rally cars in case the rally cars would speed, but gave no heed to helping control the traffic on the stage. As a result, at the end of the stage in Nowra two young smart-ass teenagers, named Gregory Stanton and Allan Chillcott in a Mini, refused the pleas of a rally official not to enter the stage going in the opposite direction of the rally cars. Saying something like it’s public road and they have a right to drive on the road if they want to. Now I know that 50% of the people have below average intelligence and Gregory Stanton and Allan Chillcott clearly demonstrated which 50% they belong in. So away they headed down the road knowingly against the on-coming rally car traffic.
The obvious then happened. The first car on the road was Bianchi/Ogier in the Citroen. They were so sure that the marathon was effectively over that the navigator, Ogier was driving while Bianchi rested. Sure enough there was a head-on collision between the Bianchi Citroen and the Mini with the two Australian punks with only four miles to go before the end of the stage. Serious injuries were inflicted on Bianchi. Their car and rally were ruined. And after thousands of rally miles, the lead fell into the hands of Andrew Cowan, Colin Malkin, and Brian Coyle in their Hillman Hunter with just a few miles to go. This clearly shows that a rally is never over until it’s all over!
Connor’s book is full of interesting stories from the 1968 London To Sydney Marathon. I recommend this book. The images in this post came from Connor’s book.
Lucien Bianchi tragically died less than a year later, at the age of 34, when in March, 1969 while testing an Alfa Romeo T33 at the Le Mans circuit his car left the track and hit a telephone pole. He died instantly. He was the great-uncle of Jules Bianchi, the Formula 1 driver who died last year, as a result of injuries at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Jean-Claude Ogier retired from major rallying in 1970. He is no relation to Sebestien Ogier who is a current competitor in the World Rally Championship.
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