O’Dowd closing in on WA title

RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship regular John O’Dowd has taken one step closer to another Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship (WARC) title after coming second in the Morley Tyres Safari Rally.

Heavy rain wreaked havoc in the morning of the event and added extra difficulty to the already challenging opening three stages, however as the day went on and the conditions got easier, O’Dowd and co-driver Toni Feaver navigated their way to a podium finish.

With O’Dowd’s biggest title rival Ben Searcy failing to finish due to electrical problems, it allowed the Skoda Fabia R5 pilot to retake the championship lead with just two rounds to go.

“It was amazing how much the stages dried up in the afternoon. It was still slippery in places, but I was much more confident in those afternoon stages,” O’Dowd said.

“The only issue we had was we were down in power a little bit. We think there was maybe a hole in the intercooler, which we’ll replace ahead of the Experts Cup.

“It’s never over until it’s over. Ben had his bad luck here; I had my bad luck at Grimwade. Hopefully at the Experts Cup we can both put our bad luck behind us and make it a straight shoot-out for the title.”

Also competing in the event was ARC junior Max McRae and the teenager produced a WARC career-best outing during the nine-stage rally.

Behind the wheel of Race Torque’s Peugeot AP4, McRae showed plenty of pace early on before claiming his two stage wins during the second loop of the event to move into third place.

Enjoying a nice buffer over the next best placed crew in Craig Rando and Stephen Wade, McRae and co-driver Bill Hayes were on track for a maiden outright podium, but power steering issues made it extremely difficult for the 17-year-old to hold on.

Photos: Jarrod Sierociak

Unfortunately, he eventually lost out on the podium to Rando by just six seconds, however he remained positive about his fourth place finish and looked forward to the next event.

“It was tricky on that first loop,” McRae said.

“We were running third early on but softening the rear of the car helped with the turn-in and got rid of some of the understeer. I took more confidence into the second loop and it went really well – we won two of the stages and went second quickest on the third.

“It was great to be driving those roads, probably some of the best I’ve ever driven. They were so tricky and technical in places, but I felt I learned loads. There was a fairly heavy landing on the third loop and we lost the power steering for the last three stages. That was really hard on the arms.

“It was a shame, I think we could have had a shot at second place through that final loop, but as it was, we missed out on third place by six seconds. It’s a shame, but the whole point of coming to this event was to learn about driving a car like this and I’ve certainly gained a lot of experience.”

Both drivers will be back in action at the Make Smoking History Experts Cup Collie taking place around the forests surrounding Wellington Dam in Collie on 30 October.