London–Sydney Marathon

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The banner for the original London-Sydney Marathon

The London–Sydney Marathon was a car rally 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. Three further rallies have subsequently been contested in 2000, 2004 and 2014.

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.[1][2] Sir Max Aitken, proprietor of the Daily Express and two of his editorial executives, Jocelyn Stevens and Tommy Sopwith, 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 winner's prize offered by the Daily Express was soon joined by a £3,000 runners-up award and two £2,000 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 rally.[1]

The route[edit]

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:[3][4]

Europe and Asia
Leg Date Start Finish Allowed time Description
1 24–25 November London Paris 12h 32m 2300hrs depart Crystal Palace, London; 0400hrs depart England at Dover on the cross-channel ferry to France; 1132hrs arrive Le Bourget Airport, Paris.
2 25–26 November Paris Turin 13h 32m To Italy via the Mont Blanc Tunnel; 0052hrs arrive Turin.
3 26 November Turin Belgrade 21h 12m Autostrada towards Venice before crossing into Yugoslavia; 2204hrs arrive Belgrade.
4 26–27 November Belgrade Istanbul 15h 31m Through Bulgaria by night into Turkey; 1335hrs arrive Istanbul.
5 27–28 November Istanbul Sivas 12h 25m Crossing the Bosphorus by ferry, through Ankara and the Bolu Pass; 0300hrs arrive Sivas.
6 28 November Sivas Erzincan 2h 45m Heading east across unsurfaced roads; 0445hrs Erzincan.
7 28–29 November Erzincan Tehran 22h 01m Cross border into Iran; 0246hrs arrive Tehran.
8 29–30 November Tehran Kabul 23h 33m Follow one of two routes to Islam Qala in Afghanistan, either the northerly route across the Alburz Mountains skirting the southern shores of the Caspian Sea, or the shorter but more treacherous route along the north edge of the Great Salt Desert;[5] 0219hrs arrive Kabul, where timeous crews can enjoy a 6.5 hour rest before the Khyber pass opens.
9 30 November Kabul Sarobi 1h 00m 0842hrs depart Kabul across an obsolete, loose-surfaced road through the Lataband Pass; 0942hrs arrive Sarobi.
10 30 November – 1 December Sarobi Delhi 17h 55m Cross Pakistan in a day into India; 0337hrs arrive Delhi.
11 1–2 December Delhi Bombay 22h 51m Pass through Agra and Indore; 0228hrs arrive Bombay.

The remaining crews departed Bombay at 3 am on Thursday 5 December, arriving in Fremantle at 10 am on Friday 13 December before they restarted in Perth the following evening. Any repairs attempted on the car during the voyage would lead to the crew's exclusion.[6]

Leg Date Start Finish Allowed time Description
12 14–15 December Perth Youanmi 7h 00m Depart 1800hrs from Gloucester Park, traversing smooth but unsurfaced road; 0100hrs arrive deserted mining town of Youanmi.
13 15 December Youanmi Marvel Loch 4h 03m Through semi-desert via Diemal to asphalt road at Bullfinch; 0503hrs arrive Marvel Loch.
14 15 December Marvel Loch Lake King 1h 59m Into the Nullarbor Desert; 0702hrs arrive Lake King (crossroads).
15 15 December Lake King Ceduna 14h 52m 2154hrs arrive Ceduna.
16 15–16 December Ceduna Quorn 6h 18m 0412hrs arrive Quorn.
17 16 December Quorn Moralana Creek 1h 17m 0529hrs arrive Moralana Creek.
18 16 December Moralana Creek Brachina 1h 30m 0659hrs arrive Brachina.
19 16 December Brachina Mingary 4h 10m 1109hrs arrive Mingary.
20 16 December Mingary Menindee 2h 12m 1329hrs arrive Menindee.
21 16 December Menindee Gunbar 5h 18m 1839hrs arrive Gunbar.
22 16 December Gunbar Edi 4h 26m 2305hrs arrive Edi.
23 16–17 December Edi Brookside 1h 00m 0005hrs arrive Brookside.
24 17 December Brookside Omeo 1h 55m 0200hrs arrive Omeo.
25 17 December Omeo Murrindal 2h 06m 0406hrs arrive Murrindal.
26 17 December Murrindal Ingebyra 1h 31m 0537hrs arrive Ingebyra.
27 17 December Ingebyra Numeralla 1h 29m 0706hrs arrive Numeralla.
28 17 December Numeralla Hindmarsh Station 0h 42m 0748hrs arrive Hindmarsh Station.
29 17 December Hindmarsh Station Nowra 2h 01m 0949hrs arrive Nowra.
30 17 December Nowra Warwick Farm 3h 30m 1319hrs arrive Warwick Farm.
31 18 December Warwick Farm Sydney Arrive in procession, Sydney.


The Ford XT Falcon GT which placed 3rd in the 1968 Marathon

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.[2]

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.[2]

This left Lucien Bianchi and co-driver Jean-Claude Ogier in the lead ahead of Gilbert Staepelaere/Simo Lampinen in the German Ford Taunus, with Andrew Cowan in the Hillman Hunter 3rd. Then Staepelaere's Taunus hit a gate post, breaking a track rod.[7] This left Cowan in second position and Paddy Hopkirk's Austin 1800 in third place.[8][9] Approaching the Nowra checkpoint at the end of the penultimate stage with only 98 miles to Sydney, the Frenchmen were involved in a head-on collision which wrecked their Citroën and hospitalised the pair.[10]

Hopkirk, the first driver on the scene (ahead of Cowan on the road, but behind on penalties) stopped to tend to the injured and extinguish the flames in the burning cars. Andrew Cowan, next on the scene, also slowed but was waved through with the message that everything was under control. Hopkirk rejoined the rally, and neither he nor Cowan lost penalties in this stage.[11] So 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,[12] took victory in his Hillman Hunter and claimed the £10,000 prize. Hopkirk finished second, while Australian Ian Vaughan was third in a factory-entered Ford XT Falcon GT. Ford Australia won the Teams' Prize with their three Falcons GTs,[13] placing 3rd, 6th and 8th.[14]


The Leyland Moke in which Hans Tholstrup and John Crawford placed 35th in the 1977 Singapore Airlines London to Sydney Rally

The success of the original event spawned the World Cup rallies although after the controversial 1974 event no further World Cup event would be held. 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 teammate Tony Fowkes in a similar car. Paddy Hopkirk, this time driving a Citroën CX, took the final podium spot.[15][16]


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.[17] 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.[18]

The 16,000 km rally had three major differences to its ancestor. First, the changing political climate in the Middle East meant that several countries such as Iran 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.[17]

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."[19] 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 rally.

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.[20]


Ten years later a sixth Marathon was run. Differing from its five predecessors it was run in the reverse direction, starting in Sydney and travelling to London with an airlift linking the west coast of Australia to Turkey.

Year Event Winner Vehicle
1968 Daily Express London–Sydney Marathon United Kingdom Andrew Cowan Hillman Hunter
1977 Singapore Airlines Rally United Kingdom Andrew Cowan Mercedes-Benz 280E
1993 Lombard London–Sydney Marathon United Kingdom Francis Tuthill Porsche 911
2000 London–Sydney Marathon Sweden Stig Blomqvist Porsche 911
2004 London–Sydney Marathon New Zealand Joe McAndrew Honda Integra Type-R
2014 The Big One Sydney–London Classic Marathon Rally Australia Geoff Olholm Datsun 260Z



  1. ^ a b "How It All Began", transcript of contemporary Daily Telegraph report,
  2. ^ a b c "The great adventure of the decade" Archived 7 December 2006 at the Wayback Machine., Julian Marsh, Citroënët, 1996
  3. ^ "Timetable of the Marathon",
  4. ^ "The Route", Alan Sawyer,
  5. ^ "10,000 Miles of Road Hazards", Jack Sears,
  6. ^ "Rules that give everyone a chance to win",
  7. ^ The 1968 London Sydney Marathon, 2016, Page 219, (Robert Connor, Jefferson McFarland Publishing)
  8. ^ Daily Express London-Sydney Marathon report, 1969, Pages 43–45, (David Benson, Beaverbrook Press)
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ The 1968 London Sydney Marathon, 2016, Page 237, (Robert Connor, Jefferson McFarland Publishing)
  12. ^ "Evan Green's Story",
  13. ^ Ford Falcon XT GT at Retrieved on 24 May 2012
  14. ^ Ford Falcon XT at Retrieved on 24 May 2012
  15. ^ Hot Wax Archived 1 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine., Mercedes and endurance racing
  16. ^ London-Sydney 1977, The longest car rally in history
  17. ^ a b London Sydney Marathon 1993 Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine., TWE Rally
  18. ^ London – Sydney Rally 1993, Don Chapman, Volvo Owners' Club
  19. ^ London Sydney Marathon 2000 Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine., TWE Rally
  20. ^ "An All Black Whitewash – The Kiwis Clean Up" Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine., Langworth Motorsport, 4 July 2004


  • Brittan, Nick (1969). Marathon: Around the World in a Cloud of Dust. London: Motor Racing Publications. OCLC 155832111.
  • Brittan, Nick (1993). The Book: The 1993 Lombard London-Sydney Marathon. Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands: Transworld Events. OCLC 221977133.
  • Cowan, Andrew (1969). Why Finish Last?. London: Queen Anne Press. ISBN 0362000522.
  • van Geffem, Wim; Meurikken, Peter (1968). London-Sydney Marathon. Bussum, Netherlands: Teleboek. OCLC 39531781.
  • Hopkirk, Paddy (1969). The Longest Drive of All: Paddy Hopkirk's story of the London - Sydney motor rally. London: G. Chapman. ISBN 0225488604.
  • Ireland, Innes (1970). Marathon in the Dust. London: Kimber. ISBN 0718300726.
  • McKay, David H; Smailes, John (1970). The Bright Eyes of Danger: London-Sydney Marathon, 1968. Sydney: Shakespeare Head Press. ISBN 0855580011.
  • Park, Simon (2009). A Little Goes A Long Way. Victoria, BC: Trafford. ISBN 9781425185084.
  • Smith, E Alan (1968). Daily Express London-Sydney Marathon. London: Beaverbrook Newspapers. OCLC 220674331.
  • Stathatos, John (1978). The Long Drive. London: Pelham. ISBN 0720710855.
  • Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, London-Sydney Marathon: official souvenir. Sydney: Australian Consolidated Press. 1968. OCLC 223374469.
  • Connor, Robert (2016). The 1968 London to Sydney Marathon: A History of the 10,000 Mile Endurance Rally. Jefferson: McFarland Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7864-9586-3.

External links[edit]

1993 • 2000 • 2004