Today – Thursday 24 November 2022 – it is exactly 54 years ago that the London-Sydney Marathon started in London. It was the first time since 1907 that such a marathon was run. Officially the rally was called 'Daily Express-Daily Telegraph London-Sydney Marathon'. It was an initiative born in 1967 by two widely read newspapers, namely the “The Daily Express” from London and the “Daily Telegraph” from Sydney. A total of 100 teams were admitted, the entry fee per team was 5.000 Dutch guilders.
Only seventy cars were allowed to embark in Bombay for the journey to Perth in Australia. So you had to make sure you were there. In 1968 it turned out that all major car manufacturers saw the potential for publicity. There were 29 teams with a Ford, BLMC nineteen, Volvo seven, General Motors five, Rootes five, Mercedes also five, Citroën, Moskovitch, Porsche and Simca four each, DAF, Renault and Saab entered with two cars and with one entry Alfa Romeo, BMW, Chrysler, Lancia and Peugeot started. The marathon took place between November 24 and December 17, 1968. The event covered 16.694 kilometers run in Europe, Asia and Australia. And the winner received the gigantic prize of 85.000,00 Dutch guilders!
Publicity and goodwill
At DAF they knew that the project could generate a lot of publicity and goodwill. In those days, the DAF 55 had just seen the light of day, so creating awareness was an asset anyway. But DAF also realized very well that things could go wrong. The Eindhoven car manufacturer managed to interest several large Dutch companies in the project. AKU, BP Nederland, KLM, Martin Air, Philips, Sikkens, Vredestein, AVRO Television and De Telegraaf acted as suppliers and sponsors. Together they formed the “Dutch National Team” whose logo is still etched in the memory of most people to this day (2022).
The DAF approach was of an unprecedented level. Car manufacturers Ford and BMLC were amazed and even seemed jealous when it turned out that a Martin Air DC-3 aircraft was being used by the team. Its task was to transport parts. And another trick that had never been seen before was the wireless communication between the two DAFs and the aircraft. The team management was able to follow everything well. It was an unprecedented success for DAF! The DAF's 55 were driven by the Zandvoorts Rob Slotemaker and Rob Janssen (No. 30) and David van Lennep and Peter Hissink started with starting number 69. Not only did they reach the finish, but the Slotemaker/Janssen team also secured a top ranking by finishing seventeenth overall.
A great achievement
The DAFs, with their 1100 cc engines, were the smallest cars in the field, but they performed surprisingly well. Rob Slotemaker and Rob Janssen thus finished 17th out of 56 cars that crossed the finish line on December 18 in Sydney. That was just over half of the field that had started in London on November 24. The other DAF 55 with David van Lennep and Peter Hissink was 24 hours behind after a crash in Turkey. Nevertheless, he was still allowed on the boat for the nine-day crossing from India to Australia. There the last part of the monster journey was completed. A great performance from the Dutch. And DAF's intelligent variomatic became world famous in one fell swoop!