Reigning ARC2 champion John O’Dowd has announced plans to contest the 2018 Australian Rally Championship season, starting with The Courier Eureka Rally.
Based around the Victorian regional town Ballarat, The Courier Eureka Rally was a tough and dusty affair in 2017, and serves as the first round of the 2018 Australian Rally Championship.
For West Australian driver O’Dowd, the event was not only his first taste of east coast gravel rallying, but served as a springboard to an ARC2 championship title in his first full Australian Rally Championship season.
“It was a fantastic feeling to win the ARC2 title last year,” O’Dowd said.
“We didn’t try to over-complicate things too much. We wanted to be consistent throughout the year, and our results show that. We were never out of the top ten, and we finished the season with a 4th in South Australia and 3rd at Rally Australia.
“To win the ARC2 title as well… that was a bonus that we didn’t expect, and fantastic reward for all the effort that the team put in throughout the season.”
For 2018, O’Dowd returns with regular co-driver Ken Shiel in a 2008 Subaru Impreza STI, prepared by Maximum Motorsport. Having won in 2017, the West Australian is not eligible to contest the ARC2 title and has set his sights on the overall championship.
“Ballarat was completely new to me, but really enjoyable. The stages are very different from WA; they are very fast and flowing,” O’Dowd said.
“The production based cars do give a little bit away in those types of conditions. The stages are probably a bit better suited to the AP4 cars. But we know that if we can bank consistent times, we can make it to the finish and get a good result.”
As well competing in the Australian Rally Championship, O’Dowd will again contest the WA Rally Championship. Although he blitzed the field at the season ending Carrington’s Safari Rally, he fell a tantalising two points short of the WARC championship title.
“Last year was really enjoyable in the WARC. We had a great time battling guys like Tom Wilde and Steve Oxley throughout the year,” O’Dowd said.
“I’m really looking forward to competing against them again, but the focus is definitely on winning the championship. Second place in the championship was great. But there was only two points in it last year, so the I’m pretty keen to go one position better this year and win the title.”
The Courier Eureka Rally, the season opener of the Australian Rally Championship starts on Saturday 3 March, while the Trade Hire Karri Rally kicks off the Onslow Contracting WA Rally Championship on March 24.