In 1968, an unforgettable worldwide motorsport event took place and crews attempted to cover almost 16,700 kilometres across three different continents, taking almost a month to complete.
The race, which was known as the Daily Express-Sydney Daily Telegraph London-Sydney Marathon, was the first of its kind and proved to be an immense undertaking as only 56 of the 98 entered cars managed to finish the event at Warwick Farm in Sydney on 17 December.
Split into two halves, the event started at Crystal Palace Raceway in London on 24 November and saw the crews travel the first 11340kms through 11 countries across Europe and Asia over eight days, with only a single 12 hour rest break at Kabul in Afghanistan. The first half of the event finished in Mumbai on 2 December, where 72 entrants then made their way to Western Australia via the sea.
Not being able to touch their cars during the nine day journey, the surviving crews then had to endure a further 5662kms across the unforgiving roads Australia, eventually finishing in Warwick Farm in Sydney on 17 December.
While a number of high profile European drivers took part in the race, including Roger Clarke, Giancarlo Baghetti and Lucien Bianchi, there were a number of successful Australians such as Harry Firth and David Walker competing, although the event was eventually won by British trio Andrew Cowan, Colin Malkin and Brian Coyle in a Hillman Hunter.
Following on from the event’s initial success, four more events in 1977. 1993, 2000 and 2004 took place under the same guise on similar roads, while a further two took place in 2014 and 2019 running in the opposite direction.
In 2021, a reduced version of the iconic rally will take place between Perth and Sydney and will be run as a non-competitive Touring Assembly to celebrate the event.
Making the 2021 Perth-Sydney Marathon so special is that the cars will be travelling on the exact same route as the inaugural marathon, revisiting all of the time and passage controls along the route, becoming the only event to do so.
In 1968, it took the leaders just shy of 68 hours to complete the route across Australia , although with this year’s event to run in a more relaxed and social environment, participants will take 10 days to complete the crossing.
The Organisers have set a limit of 85 entries, already receiving entries from all 10 remaining cars from the original 1968 event, including the Harry Firth factory built 1968 XT GT Falcon, the only remaining Daily Telegraph Holden Monaro and the factory prepared Porsche 911S of 1968 European Rally Champion Sobieslaw Zasada.
While the event was supposed to take place in 2020 but was postponed due to COVID-19, event organiser Laurie Mason was excited to run the event and was pleased with the interest surrounding it.
“The concept began in 2017 and in 2018 when I ran a small three day event to celebrate the 50th Anniversary and not long after doing an expression of interest, I had more than 85 participants wanting to get involved,” Mason said.
“The key thing is we have an exciting field of historic rally cars on the event with all of the cars from the 1968 event coming back together for the first time in 52 years.
“Of the original cars we have three Ford GT Falcons, a Holden Monaro, BMC Austin 1800, Hillman Hunter, Alfa Romeo, Volvo 144s, Vauxhall Ventora and the recently fully restored Porsche 911 Car 58. We also have a number of replica cars being built including the Citroen DS21 of Lucien Bianchi and Jean-Claude Ogier, who were actually leading the 1968 event until just over 170kms from the finish.
“Not only do we have cars from 1968, but we also have a great mix of entrants, officials, service crew, journalists and spectators who were part of that event.
“In addition to the originals, we have cars representing all London-Sydney events, plus cars that have completed the spin off events such as Peking to Paris, London-Mexico, Panama-Alaska and East Africa Safari.
“The event should be a wonderful cavalcade of rallying history travelling across the country and we’re just really looking forward to it.”
The 2021 Perth-Sydney Marathon takes place on a mix of tarmac and gravel roads from Perth to Sydney between 29 October and 7 November.
Entries for the event are still open with expressions of interests to be sent to [email protected]