London-Sydney Marathon

London-Sydney Marathon

The London-Sydney Marathon is a rally racing event from the United Kingdom to Australia. It was first run in 1968, a second event was organised in 1977 and a third in 1993 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the original. Two further races have subsequently been contested in 2000 and 2004.

The original event was won by Andrew Cowan, Colin Malkin and Brian Coyle, driving a Hillman Hunter. Fifty-six cars finished.



The original Marathon was the result of a lunch in late 1967, during a period of despondency in Britain caused by the devaluation of the pound. [ "How It All Began"] , transcript of contemporary "Daily Telegraph" report,] [ "The great adventure of the decade"] , Julian Marsh, Citroënët, 1996] Sir Max Aitken, proprietor of the "Daily Express" and two of his editorial executives, Jocelyn Stevens and Tommy Sopwith jr, decided to create an event which their newspaper could sponsor, and which would serve to raise the country's spirits. Such an event would, it was felt, act as a showcase for British engineering and would boost export sales in the countries through which it passed.

The initial UK£10,000 (AU$21,429) winner's prize offered by the "Daily Express" was soon joined by a £3,000 ($6,438) runners-up award and two £2,000 ($4,285) prizes for the third-placed team and for the highest-placed Australians, all of which were underwritten by the "Daily Telegraph" newspaper and its proprietor Sir Frank Packer, who was eager to promote the Antipodean leg of the race.

The route

An eight man organising committee was established to create a suitably challenging but navigable route. Jack Sears, organising secretary and himself a former racing driver, plotted a 7,000-mile course covering eleven countries in as many days, and arranged that the P&O liner "S.S. Chusan" would ferry the first 72 cars and their crews on the nine day voyage from India, before the final 2,600 miles across Australia: [ "Timetable of the Marathon"] ,] [ "The Route"] , Alan Sawyer,] The remaining crews departed Bombay at 3am on Thursday December 5, arriving in Fremantle at 10am on Friday December 13 before they restarted in Perth the following evening. Any repairs attempted on the car during the voyage would lead to the crew's exclusion. [ "Rules that give everyone a chance to win"] ,]


Roger Clark established an early lead through the first genuinely treacherous leg, from Sivas to Erzincan in Turkey, averaging almost 60 mph in his Lotus Cortina for the 170 mile stage. Despite losing time in Pakistan and India, he maintained his lead to the end of the Asian section in Bombay, with Simo Lampinen's Ford Taunus second and Lucien Bianchi's DS21 in third.

However, once into Australia, Clark suffered several setbacks. A piston failure dropped him to third, and would have cost him a finish had he not been able to cannibalise fellow Ford Motor Company driver Eric Jackson's car for parts. After repairs were effected, he suffered what should have been a terminal rear differential failure. Encountering a Cortina by the roadside, he persuaded the initially reluctant owner to sell his rear axle and resumed once more, although at the cost of 80 minutes' delay while it was replaced.

By this time Bianchi and co-driver Jean-Claude Ogier had built an apparently unassailable lead ahead of Paddy Hopkirk's Austin 1800 in second, but approaching the Nowra checkpoint at the end of the penultimate stage with only 150 miles to Sydney, the Frenchmen were involved in a head-on collision which wrecked their Citroën and hospitalised the pair. Hopkirk, the first driver on the scene, gave up his chance of victory when he stopped to tend to the injured and extinguish the flames in the burning cars. That left Andrew Cowan, who had requested "a car to come last" from the Chrysler factory on the assumption that only half a dozen drivers would even reach Sydney, [ "Evan Green's Story"] ,] to take an unexpected victory in his Hillman Hunter and claim the £10,000 prize. Hopkirk finished second, while Australian Ian Vaughan was third in a factory-entered Ford Falcon.


While the original event was to prove a triumph for the Rootes Group and BMC, 1977's rerun, this time sponsored by Singapore Airlines, belonged to Mercedes. The German marque claimed a 1–2 finish and had two other cars in the top eight, with Andrew Cowan in a 280E repeating his success of nine years previous, followed home by team-mate Tony Fowkes in a similar car. Paddy Hopkirk, this time driving a Citroën, took the final podium spot. [ [ Hot Wax] , Mercedes and endurance racing] [ [ History Channel,] ]


Nick Brittan, a competitor in the original event in a Lotus Cortina, established his company as an organiser of modern endurance rallies with a 25th anniversary re-run of the marathon in 1993. [ London Sydney Marathon 1993] , TWE Rally] He persuaded 21 drivers who had competed in 1968 to return, including Andrew Cowan and Roger Clark, and altogether 106 teams from 17 countries entered. Cowan drove the same car as the first time, having his Hillman Hunter loaned to him by the Scottish Automobile Club museum, while other competitors drove pre-1970 era cars. The entry fee was £12,900, and the estimated cost of participating was put at £45,000. [ [ London - Sydney Rally 1993] , Don Chapman, Volvo Owners' Club]

The 16,000 km race had three major differences to its ancestor. First, the changing political climate in the Middle East meant that several countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan were now out of bounds, although in Europe, Turkey and Australia much of the original route was retraced. Also, the old scheduled open road sections were replaced with more modern timed special stages for safety reasons. Finally, with the demise of the great passenger liners there would be no great voyage across the Indian Ocean to Australia, Brittan instead negotiating for two Antonov An-124 cargo planes to take the vehicles to Australia.

The winning driver was Francis Tuthill in a Porsche 911, ahead of the Ford Falcon GT of Ian Vaughan who finished third in 1968. Kenya's Mike Kirkland, a stalwart of the Safari Rally, took the final place on the podium in a Peugeot 504.


A second rerun was organised in 2000 as a "Millennium celebration of [the] first epic event." [ [ London Sydney Marathon 2000] , TWE Rally] Again, much of Asia was inaccessible for political reasons, with two airlifts instead of the single one of 1993. Now, after crossing Europe and Turkey in the first fourteen days, the competitors would be loaded on to the Antonovs for the trip to northern Thailand, driving south through the country and into Malaysia for twelve days before being flown to Australia for the last eight days of the race.

Of the 100 starters who left London 78 reached Sydney, with Stig Blomqvist and Ben Rainsford scoring victory ahead of Michèle Mouton in a Porsche 911, whose co-driver was 1993 winner Francis Tuthill. Rick Bates and Jenny Brittan in another 911 took third.


The third rerun was a combination of modern Group N (showroom-class) cars, and pre-1977 classics, all limited to two wheel drive and a sub-two litre engine. New Zealand, in tandem with Lincolnshire, England race-preparation specialists Langworth Motorsport, scored a 1–2–3 podium clean sweep with three Kiwi-piloted Honda Integras; overall winners Joe McAndrew and Murray Cole, runners-up Mike Montgomery and Roy Wilson, and Shane Murland and John Benton in third. The highest-placed classic car was a Ford Escort RS1600 driven by Britain's Anthony Ward and Mark Solloway, which finished sixth overall. [ [ "An All Black Whitewash - The Kiwis Clean Up"] , Langworth Motorsport, July 4 2004]


External links

* [ 1968 London-Sydney Marathon] , site dedicated to the original event
* [ The 1968 Daily Express London to Sydney Marathon: The great adventure of the decade] , Julian Marsh, 1996
* [ Trans World Events] , organisers of the third, fourth and fifth rallies::" [ 1993] • [ 2000] • [ 2004] "
* [ Australian government website promoting the 2004 event]
* [ "Marathon men – get ready for London-Sydney 2004"] , Peter McKay,, January 6, 2003
* [ Volvo UK Club coverage of the 1993 event]
* [ Day-by-day coverage of the 2004 event at Langworth Motorsport]

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