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(Rolls Press/Popperfoto)

Andrew Cowan’s works Hillman Hunter blasts through the never-ending and oh-so-demanding Australian scrub during the last, long, tough leg of the London-Sydney Marathon in December 1968…

I posted an article written by Bruce Thomas a while back featuring some of his photos, but I thought these too good to ignore, click on this link to see the article;

https://primotipo.com/?s=london+sydney+marathon

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Andrew Cowan, Brian Coyle and Colin Malkin alight their BOAC flight at Heathrow, their low budget works Hillman Hunter winners of the London-Sydney, December 1968 (Rolls Press/Popperfoto)

Andrew Cowan shared the drive with Colin Malkin and Brian Coyle, in some ways it was a lucky win but these ultra-long endurance events need a combination of luck, consistency, reliability, high levels of concentration for long periods, driving and navigational skill and resilience to overcome the inevitable dramas large and small.

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The Bianchi/Ogier Citroen DS21 leading the event during the Numeralla Stage. 4 Miles from the end of the Nowra stage, the end of competition, the car with Ogier at the wheel, Bianchi asleep hit a Mini head on travelling against them on the rally road. The Citroen was destroyed with Bianchi suffering leg and chest injuries. Hopkirk’s Austin was first on the scene, immediately returned 4 miles to a radio point to get help (Bruce Thomas)

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Italian born, Belgian domiciled Lucien Bianchi cleans the windscreen of his Citroen, in the lead at the end of the Numeralla-Hindmarsh stage. Disaster struck in the following transport stage. A remarkably versatile driver, he won the ’68 Le Mans with Pedro Rodriguez in a JW Automotive Ford GT40, was third at the ’68 Monaco GP in a works Cooper T86B BRM and should have won the London-Sydney, not bad results in one year in such diverse cars and disciplines! Sadly he died at the wheel of an Alfa T33 during the Le Mans test weekend in March 1969 (Bruce Thomas)

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Lucien Bianch’s Cooper T86B BRM V12 ahead of Graham Hill’s Lotus 49B Ford, 3rd and 1st, Monaco GP 1968 (unattributed)

 

 

Cowan was raised in Duns where he established a close friendship with Jim Clark another young local farmer. ‘We each had to have a car. We were able to drive in fields, off road, and of course through all the twisty roads around here where there was practically no traffic in those days. That definitely refined our driving skills. We had advantages that other drivers didn’t.’ said Cowan.

Both men were active in the Berwick and District Car Club during the 1950s, whilst Clark gravitated to open-wheelers Cowan ventured off-road. He soon contested 1960 RAC Rally finishing 43rd in a field of over 200 starters in a Sunbeam Rapier. His father acquired a more powerful Rapier in which he won the 1962 and 1963 Scottish Rallies. As a consequence the Rootes Group invited him to become their ‘works’ driver.

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The works Paddy Hopkirk/Tony Nash driven Austin 1800 ‘Landcrab’ finished an excellent 2nd in the Marathon, here on the Numeralla Stage (Bruce Thomas)

Cowan had much success with both Rootes and subsequently Mitsubishi. He also won the 1977 London-Sydney Marathon in a Mercedes 280E with Colin Malkin again one of the co-drivers. I can still remember the thrill of seeing him and the rest of the field charging through the still, frigid winter air of the sub-alpine control Victorian Alfa Club Members manned north of Mansfield in September 1977.

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Andrew Cowan Benz 280E somewhere in Australia during the ’77 London-Sydney (unattributed)

Cowan was a popular and much respected figure in Australia, he won five consecutive Southern Cross Rallies in Mitsubishi’s (1972–76), the 1977 Rallye Bandama Cote d’Ivoire, the 1976 Scottish Rally Championship and the world’s longest rally, the 20,000-mile South American Marathon in 1978. In the Safari Rally he finished in the top 4 four times in five years. In the Paris-Dakar, his best result was second in 1985. He retired as a driver in 1990.

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Andrew Cowan and Fred Gocentas during their October 1975 victorious Southern Cross Rally win, Mitsubishi Lancer GSR 1600, no helmets. Rally HQ Port Macquarie, NSW (unattributed)

In 1977, he was awarded the British Guild of Motoring Writers’ Driver of the Year Award, the Jim Clark Memorial Trophy for ‘outstanding achievement by a Scottish driver’ and the BRDC’s John Cobb Trophy for a British driver of outstanding success.

After Cowan’s retirement as a driver he established a European base for Mitsubishi. ‘Andrew Cowan Motorsports’ was based in Rugby, Warwickshire and morphed into Mitsubishi Ralliart taking Tommi Makinen to four consecutive World Rally Championship titles (1996-9) and a manufacturers title for Mitsubishi in 1998. He retired in 2005.

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The 6th placed Bruce Hodgson/Doug Rutherford works Ford Falcon ‘XT’ GT, the Vaughan/Forsyth car was 3rd and Firth/Hoinville car 8th giving FoMoCo Oz the team prize. The cars were prepared by Harry Firth and Ken Harper. Not bad for a family car with a 5 litre/302cid V8 designed for the Bathurst 500 rather than Rally Forests! Numeralla stage (Bruce Thomas)

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The works (GM) Holden Monaro ‘HK’ GTS 327cid V8 powered car of Barry Ferguson, Doug Chivas and Johnson best of the Holdens in 12th. Doug (thrice Australian GP winner)Whiteford/Eddie (father of Larry) Perkins were 14th and David McKay/Reynolds car DNF. Both Ford and Holden fielded well prepared cars and drivers of great experience and depth. The ‘Bathurst’ cars both performed well as rally machines. Whilst the Holden Team was organised by Scuderia Veloce’s David McKay the cars were prepared by Holden and entered in the name of their sponsor ‘Sydney Telegraph Racing’ the Packer owned newspaper for whom McKay wrote his motoring columns, to be clear it was a ‘works’ entry (Bruce Thomas)

Credits…

Rolls Press/Popperfoto, Bruce Thomas, Wikipedia, bobwatsonrally.com.au, southerncrossrallyblogspot.com, ewrc-results.com

Tailpiece: Cowan’s Hillman Hunter, known colloquially as ‘grunters’ in Oz, in 2nd place during the Numeralla to Hindmarsh Station stage, typical Australian sub-alpine terrain and vegetatation…

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(Bruce Thomas)

 

 

 

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