Mini Car Club president Gus Staunton lead the BMC contingent for the Australian leg of the 1968 London-Sydney Marathon, organising the service arrangements for the Works team. He enlisted the help of many members of the club, including Peter.
“I drove an Austin 1800 service vehicle”, Peter explains. “My younger brother Mike was a mechanic and he came with me. As members of the service team, we had to meet them out at Bourke, I think, then follow them down through Hillston and into the Snowy Mountains, and left them at about Jindabyne. I had this 1800 ute loaded to the hilt, with gearboxes, windscreens, tyres, the whole show. The thing was so overloaded.”
Later that same year, Peter teamed up with Clive Hodgins in a Holden Monaro to win their class in the Southern Cross Rally, and repeated the effort for Daihatsu in 1969. Then came a reasonable result in the 1970 Ampol Round Australia Trial, in the Tynan Motors Mazda R100.
“I think as a result of that I got nominated to Gus who was forming the Leyland team for the Southern Cross Rally that year. When my name got put forward I actually backed away from it, because I didn’t think I was good enough to go with Evan (Green). But then a couple of other names were thrown up, and I thought, oh, I think I’m as good as or better than these other people, so I put my hand up. It was a case of taking the opportunity when it presented itself.”
Peter still vividly recalls the very first competitive stage on the rally with Evan. “That was my very first experience in a full-on Works rally car. I mean, I’d been with other club fellas who were quick or whatever, but to actually drop the clutch and take off in a Works car, you suddenly realise that nothing stands in your way. You’re bouncing over rocks that you would otherwise have slowed down for and crawled over, and he’s just going straight at it, foot flat to the floor, and you think, wow, no wonder they get the times they do.”
This was almost a fairytale debut for Peter with the team, finishing second. Rain on the 100-mile section over the Barrington Tops National Park late in the rally saw many competitors fail to complete the event.
“Barry Ferguson and Dave Johnson won it, but only after we pushed their HDT Torana out of a bog”, Peter reveals. We got into the Barrington Tops and I think there were only 14 cars of the original starters that got through that final section. Ferguson left four points ahead of us, and about six minutes on the road ahead of us. When we got to him stuck in the bog, it made us the leaders by two minutes in the rally.”
“We pulled up and I said, Evan, that’s Barry, we’re in front, you’ve got to go around him. He said, I can’t, there’s no room. With a huge drop-off on the left, it meant we had to get out and push him out, which we did. Then we jumped back in our car and got stuck in the same bog. I called out for them to come and help us, and the rules said that they should have lent assistance to us, but whether they didn’t realise or whatever, they took off, and that’s what cost us the Southern Cross Rally that year.”
The pair was also second in the International KLG Rally Of The Hills two weeks later, in the same car. First place followed in the national Caltex Motorama Rally in 1971.
1970 was the year that BMC Australia had bought a second pair of Minis from the Works team at Abingdon, but the car Peter and Evan used in most of the top events was a locally-built car, registered BFO 067. “That was the most successful Australian-built rally Mini”, Peter insists.
In May 1971 Peter and Evan were part of three-car Leyland Works team to compete in the inaugural Heatway International Rally in New Zealand – NZ’s first international rally.
“The Wellington Car Club held this big welcome for the Leyland team basically, because Leyland in NZ were also promoting the rally. They had about 900 people there, and we just got up on the stage and talked rallies all night. It was a fabulous night, and people were firing questions back and forth. It was the sort of thing that Evan used to get his teeth right into.”
Also in the team were Andrew Cowan and Dave Johnson who went on to win more stages than any other car (with 13), but due to the engine being rebuilt outside of parc ferme (meaning instant disqualification) they were not officially classed as having finished the event.
Evan and Peter were actually leading the rally outright on Day 3, when their engine dropped a valve. The loss of time in repairing it put the pair out of contention for the event, but at least they finished.
If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 22 of The Mini Experience. <plumshop>37</plumshop> <plumshop>38</plumshop>