Competitor Profile – Robert Cranston and Russell Opie

Robert Cranston

2018 marked 50 years of my involvement in Rallying. I credit Peter Hudson, a mechanic at B S Stillwell for getting me interested in the sport. Sometimes I applaud him and other times I am not so sure…it’s that kind of sport.

Wife Judy and I bought an Anglia which we rallied for a few years with minimal modifications but we had fun..! ( In 1968 Judy and Jenny Caddy won the Ladies Prize in the Alpine Rally of that year in a standard Mazda 1300). We moved to Adelaide and it was a case of Rally what you had…a 1963 XL Falcon.

We then stepped up to a Mk 1 Escort and somehow stuck a 2.0 litre OHC in it. Came back to Melbourne and ran in club events when we could afford it. This car was a lot of fun and eventually ended up with Brian Wood Ford sponsorship.

We then decided to build a Mk 1 Cortina from a shell. This was a fun project and with a 1600cc with twin webers on it we ended up winning a FFCC event at Mt Disappointment. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the Cortina was sold to provide a new bathroom in our house. The new owner was Ted Perkins…!

As we all know when rallying is in your blood it stays there and after a short time we turned a Mk 2 Escort into a club rally car once again having a lot of fun on FFCC events. We took a break from Rallying for a few years after a drunk wrote off our Mk 2 but once it is in you blood it stays there.

I bought a dishevelled RA28 Celica and spent a year getting it rebuilt eventually doing a lot of HRA events and four Alpine Rallies. We finished 2 and dnf’d two…this car was then sold to Mike Mitchell.

This brings us to the present and our current RA65 Celica. Originally bought for $200 it has proved to be a versatile and dependable car. It has done two Alpines…one dnf because our understanding of what makes an RA65 a rally car was lacking. We are back this year (possibly the last one…but we always say that..!) Engine has been rebuilt so we are looking forward to the event.

It’s six Alpines for me. Three finished and three dnfs so 2019 will be the decider..! Bring on 2019..!

Russell Opie

I have been involved in motorsport for most of my life (went to my first motor race at 3 months old) and I guess from there I was hooked

I started building my first Rally Car (Datsun 1600..what else!!) when I was 16 with the help of the
great Gil Davis. We lived not too far from Gil’s palace and I remember getting strange looks while carrying a full length sump guard and various Roll Cages sections on the tram to get them back home.

After selling that car I moved to a Honda Civic with a hugely noisy straight cut gearbox, (you could hear it coming for miles) then ran a Group G PB210 (120Y 2 door sedan) Datsun with an L series engine, Option 1 gearbox and Datsun 1600 Wagon rear end. This car was originally built by John Dixon ( with a whole heap of works bits). I bought this car from David Dyball, and ran it in VRCs and VCRSs.

In between competing I got involved with directing and generally helping to make events happen, in the beginning directing Shamateurs and helping out with Mid Westerns, Blue Ribbons, Experts etc with the Light Car Club and legends like Stuart Lister, Bruce Keys, Mike Mitchell and Bruce Ford.

In later years with the HRA while still competing (On both sides of the car) I have been lucky enough to still be involved in most Alpines in various capacities since it’s reincarnation in 2001 and have been clerk of course on events like Gill Davis Memorial, Various RallySprints, as well as the 2013 Alpine Rally of East Gippsland.

I have been co driving with Rob Cranston for the last 3 Alpines and looking forward to many more.