The three ladies and their Austin Maxi in the Alpes Maritime.
Photo: Bron Burrell Archive
The 1970 World Cup Rally (WCR) has gone down in history as the longest and toughest rally ever. Criss-crossing Europe in five days the route took competitors to South America for another arduous three-week route to Mexico City. Tish Ozanne contacted me in October 1969 to see if I’d be interested in competing in this long distance, “London-to-Sydney” type rally. World Cup Football themed, the rally was to start in April 1970 at Wembley Stadium, London—venue of the 1966 victorious England team—and finishing at the Aztec Stadium, Mexico, location of the 1970 soccer World Cup finals in June. Tina Kerridge joined Tish and me, we ran as a three-driver team, one driving, one navigating and the other trying to rest. On paper it was to work on a rota system. At 47 years of age, Tish was the eldest and most experienced rally driver of the three of us, having competed successfully on a number of national and international events including the Monte Carlo Rally. Tina, the next eldest, had entered a number of production car trials, stages, rallies and speed events. I was the youngest of the three, indeed one of the youngest entrants of the entire event. At 25, I’d had several seasons campaigning in Formula Three before changing to club rallying in 1966 at the wheel of a Hillman Imp, and obtaining my International Rally license in 1967. For us all, this was to be “the” ultimate event of our careers.
Our car was to be one of the first of the new Austin Maxis off of the production line at the British Leyland (BL) works at Cowley, Oxford. Tish, purchased the car from Marshall—the BL main dealer in Cambridge. It was her car, but Marshalls was “on board” to provide the necessary upgrades and preparation for competition in the WCR. Although we were private entrants, we did have our car prepared much to the same spec as the two works cars. Indeed, Peter Baldwin, who was allocated as our chief mechanic, spent many hours at BL’s Special Tuning Department at Abingdon, Oxford. His team also included Ray Brand, Tim Reynolds and Richard Watts. While the difference between our rally-prepared Maxi and those on the road was immense, underneath it all it was a Maxi. After all the preparation and glitz and glamor, the rally was soon upon us. Having been given the number 20 we were among the first of the 96 starters in line to drive away from magical Wembley Stadium on our epic journey to Mexico City, 16,179 miles away.
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