Skip to content


It was Australia’s first international cross-country rally and it unfolded into a race that was as gripping as it was grueling

As much to attract international media interest as to promote the Wynn’s Safari locally, the organisers of the inaugural Sydney to Darwin Rally, Tom Snooks and Hans Tholstrup, invited dual Paris-Dakar winner Gaston Rahier to headline the rider line-up.

Earlier that year, the former World Motocross Champion had teamed up with Eddie Hau, the European Enduro Champion, to contest the Baja 1000. Their BMW R 80 G/S was hardly suited to the notorious Mexican pony express, yet they claimed a class win and finished fifth outright.

So it was that Eddie would accompany Gaston in the 1985 Wynn’s Safari, where the expectations were that the experienced teammates would be the first to taste the Champagne in Darwin. And generate international press coverage for the event.

And just to negate any possibility of disappointment, BMW Australia had entered a pair of Nissan Patrols in the names of BMW Race Technicians, Herbert Wimmers and Hunut Phol, whose ‘navigators’ were none other than former Australian Rally Champion George Fury and Denny Hulme, New Zealand’s former Formula 1 world champ. Because you see, the Wynn’s Safari rules stated that competitors – and only competitors – could assist one another. So, if Gaston faced a problem that he and Eddie couldn’t fix, they could expect a very fast Nissan to arrive in short order; complete with a factory technician, a comprehensive kit of BMW spares and, most importantly, so-called competitors.

These logistics were way beyond the level of preparation and expense of the most fancied local rider to take on the might of the BMW juggernaut. Cessnock earthmover by trade and dirtshifter by choice Phil Lovett had already produced one upset as the first non-Territorian to win the Finke Desert Race. Then he became the first Aussie to score a Gold Medal at the International Six Days Enduro. Always optimistic, Lovett figured his experience in the Australian outback would level the playing field.

Entrepreneurial Bathurst Yamaha Dealer and State Enduro Champion Allan Cunynghame was another experienced competitor who, with the backing of Yamaha, Castrol and Yokohama, put competitive machines under brothers Andrew and Michael from the Goddard motorcycling dynasty; with himself as lead rider. All three riding Yamaha TT600s.

Honda Australia entered a pair of V-Twin XLV750s before Honda Australia Rider Training (HART) instructor Peter ‘Duck’ McDonald talked some sense into the marketing department. Instead, Duck painstakingly assembled a pair of Honda XR600s complete with re-stickered Yamaha 26-litre fuel tanks for himself and World Trials competitor Steve Chapman…

Read the full story in the current issue (vol 69 No 15)

Words Peter Whitaker