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Celebrating 50 Years of the London-Sydney Marathon

Bob Rupani  | Published: January 15, 2019, 08:01 PM IST

The original London to Sydney rally is possibly the world's greatest motoring adventure. It covered 16,000 km and went through India with Dr. Bomsi Wadia also taking part. Interestingly, it was conceived because of the gloomy mood in Britain due to the devaluation of the pound. The Daily Express newspaper decided to create and sponsor an event that would raise spirits by displaying England's engineering expertise which would boost exports. The Sydney Telegraph also stepped in to support the event.

The 1968 London to Sydney Marathon was possibly the greatest ever motoring adventure - 1

The idea of a rally from London to Sydney captured almost everyone's imagination. Many automobile manufacturers and the world's top drivers participated; with 98 cars starting from London's Crystal Palace. They went to Paris, then Turin, Belgrade onto Istanbul across the famous River Bosphorus by ferry, from there to Iran, Kabul and over the Khyber Pass to Delhi and then down to Bombay. From here, the first 72 cars to arrive (maximum capacity of the ship) were transported by sea on December 5th, 1968, to Australia. Amazingly, both Pakistan and India ignored their differences and opened the sealed borders for the competitors.

The 1968 London to Sydney Marathon was possibly the greatest ever motoring adventure- 2

The 1968 London to Sydney Marathon was possibly the greatest ever motoring adventure- 3

The leader at Bombay was British rally ace Roger Clark in a Lotus Cortina, followed by one of the early "Flying Finns" Simo Lampinen's Ford Taunus and Lucien Bianchi's Citroen DS21 in third. In Australia where the conditions were alien to most apart from the Australians, the leader board changed almost daily. There were many breakdowns and accidents with the drivers and co-drivers doing repairs on the cars, something unheard of these days. Eventually, 56 cars finished the marathon with Andrew Cowan winning in a Hillman Hunter, Paddy Hopkirk second in a BMC 1800 and Australian Ian Vaughan was third in his Ford Falcon. After Cowan's victory, Hillman dealers in Australia were flooded with orders! The event had achieved its aim.

The 1968 London to Sydney Marathon was possibly the greatest ever motoring adventure- 4

The 1968 London to Sydney Marathon was possibly the greatest ever motoring adventure- 5

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