The world’s longest ever rally, the Singapore Airlines London to Sydney rally, started in Covent Garden, London

Sunday 14th August 1977

The world’s longest ever rally, the Singapore Airlines London to Sydney rally, started in Covent Garden, London. The race was won at Sydney Opera House on 28 September by the British team of Andrew Cowan, Colin Malkin and Michael Broad in a Mercedes 280E. They were followed home by team-mate Tony Fowkes in a similar car. Paddy Hopkirk, this time driving a Citroën CX, took the final podium spot.

The 1977 London-Sydney Marathon was the first-ever rally to have a competing truck, several years ahead of the Paris Dakar. It had two former Grand Prix drivers; several front-line international rally drivers; Fiat entered a team of prototype diesels – the first time for a diesel works-rallycar on an international event. There were works-factory teams at one end, and privateers at the other in everything from a fibreglass kit-car, the Magenta; the first time a kit-car had ever been accepted into an international rally; a Mini Clubman and even a Mini Moke. In between, there were Range Rovers, Jeeps, Peugeots, Mercedes of various descriptions, Ford Escorts, a Mazda rotary-engined car, Datsuns, Volvos, Saabs, even a mobile-home camper van. Crews came from around the world to take part… professionals, experts, adventurers, more than one crew were on their first-ever rally, including a couple who literally drove straight from a dealer’s showroom direct to the start-ramp. It was also the first big-time rally for a Subaru 4WD.There were several instances of cheating that would have made Dick Dastardly proud, including a crew that left London and then flew their car to India, cheekily trying to check in at the time-control table set up outside the hotel in Madras without even bothering to remove the car still strapped to the back of a truck, having come straight from the airport. The route took in mountains, rivers wild enough for a Datsun to float off downstream, and several deserts – the Australia section was a marathon drive in its own right. When the ship arrived late into Freemantle, rather than cancel sections to get the rally back on schedule, it was decided to make up the lost time by simply running it non-stop – for seven days and nights.

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