John O’Dowd and has climbed two positions in the CAMS Australian Rally Championship after a gutsy effort at the Lightforce Rally SA at the weekend.
In his first appearance at the event, which was run over the fast forestry roads in and around the Barossa and Murrayland regions, O’Dowd and co-driver Ken Sheil were fifth in Heat One, fourth in Heat Two and, therefore, claimed fourth overall for the weekend.
The WA pair, who’ve been testing the waters in the ARC this year, are now sixth on the championship leaderboard and just one point off fifth spot.
“It was a great event for us,” O’Dowd said.
“We went in with a cautious approach, but we found our feet pretty quickly.”
“The roads are really different to WA,” he said. “The surface in South Australia is much more compact, so the roads are really fast.”
O’Dowd, who usually drives a 2007 Subaru WRX STI, was behind the wheel of a 2009 WRX STI hatch for Lightforce RallySA.
“I drove the Maximum Motorsport hatch because I ran in a state round just last weekend and, with all the pre-planning required for South Australia, I didn’t want to risk my usual car not being ready,” he said.
“There’s quite a difference between the cars, as the hatch drives more off the back end.”
O’Dowd said it took him a couple of stages to get used to how the car handled, but he adapted pretty quickly.
“I was really impressed with the hatch and I’m hoping to use it again for Rally Australia and then possibly next year,” he said.
Kennards Hire Rally Australia is the final round of the 2017 ARC and will be run on the New South Wales’ Coffs Coast from November 16 to 19.
Before then, O’Dowd will compete in the final round of the CAMS Onslow Contracting WA Rally Championship, the Carringtons Safari Rally on October 14.
The notoriously-challenging event is an important one for O’Dowd who is in striking distance of claiming the WARC title.
PIC: Ryan Schembri