The Dunlop Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship (WARC) 2023 season resumes this weekend with the marquee event of the six-round state calendar, the Make Smoking History Forest Rally.
A strong field of more than 50 crews will line up for the second round of the WARC season, which runs in conjunction with the Bosch Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) over the course of three days.
Making up the 2023 Make Smoking History Forest Rally are 179 competitive kilometres across 17 stages, which will be split into two heats.
Heat 1 will begin on Friday night with four Super Special Stages at Bunbury Speedway before a further eight stages, totalling 119 kilometres, run on Saturday.
The event’s remaining 59 competitive kilometres will take place on Sunday over a further five stages, which includes the EROAD Power Stage.
Both the national and state level championships will be running every stage across the three-day event, giving local WA crews a good chance to see how they go against the country’s best.
Of the 51 crews entered in the WARC, nine of which will be running in Saturday’s Clubman Cup and Clubman Masters, a solid 19 entries will be contesting both the national and state championships.
Realty Lane’s Daniel Gonzalez and Daymon Nicoli, IntelliSpatial Fleetcare Racing’s two-pronged attack in Alex and Peter Rullo, who are joined by Steve Glenney and James Marquet, and three-time state champion John O’Dowd and Toni Feaver in the Truck Wholesale Skoda Fabia R5 are among the WA crews hoping to give the national contenders a run for their money.
“The ARC is full of talent and even from a state-level point of view, there is a lot harder competition now, which is great for the sport and great for WA,” O’Dowd said.
“I myself am not going to be just hanging around either. I finished fifth in Bakers Hill, so I was actually quite happy. You can finish fifth and be disappointed, but I was content with the way I drove and the result, considering it’s been a while.
“Down in Nannup, the roads are different and they test a lot of people, and being that it’s my first one back, I just want to finish and see where I end up in the scheme of things. If I can finish well. I am okay with that.”
In addition to the aforementioned crews, the likes of Di Candilo Steel City’s Jack Flanagan and Murray Hynes and Steelweld Fabrication Gary Mills and Mitchell Gray are among those also hopeful of also challenging for some outright top 10 stage results.
One driver who makes the step up from state to ARC level will be Craig Rando, who will be looking to continue his good run with new co-driver Scott Beckwith.
Rando and Beckwith are one of 12 crews in the White Wolf Constructions ARC Production Cup, and the multiple-time WARC event winner was hoping for a solid return.
“I am feeling pretty good this weekend. I have been in the sport for five years and thought that it was the right time to give the ARC a go and see where we stack up,” Rando said.
“Being our first hit out at a national level, we have no expectations but I’m interested to see how we match up to the rest of the production car competitors.
“I have made quite a few good steps forward in recent years by improving my time and pace and having Scott Beckwith join last year has been a big difference, so I am looking forward to running about and having a go in the ARC.”
Other WA state drivers looking for some Cup silverware include David Smith and Rodger Pedersen in the ARC 2WD Cup and ARC Classic Cup contenders David Thomas and Amanda Lister.
While the 19 cross-entered WA crews are quite impressive, the 23 WARC-only crews should also provide an entertaining battle across the weekend.
Led by Ben Searcy and Bradley Jones, the field includes a number of talented steerers such as Timothy Hiles, Camden Puzey, Jarrod Sewell and Alexander White.
Australian Motorkhana Champion Scott Bennett and Gavin Turner will also make the step up from the Clubman Cup into WARC this year.
Ahead of the round, event organiser Ross Tapper was looking forward to seeing the local crews up against the best in Australia.
“WA Rallying is going from strength to strength with four new generation 4WD cars running,” Tapper said.
“There are many very competitive Subarus and Mitsubishis right through the field with a large portion of those capable of getting good results.
“It’s also great to see those competitors running just for fun and I am sure they will enjoy themselves very much.
“We look forward to a great weekend of rallying.”
The Make Smoking History Forest Rally serves as the second round of the Dunlop Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship’s 2023 season and takes place in Bunbury, Busselton and Nannup on 19-21 May.