RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) regular John O’Dowd has claimed an ever-important victory in the Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship (WARC) to keep his title hopes alive at the Karri Rally.
Behind the wheel of the Skoda Fabia R5, O’Dowd and co-driver Toni Feaver led the other 27 crews for the whole rally – his victory closing the gap on championship leader and former ARC event-winning co-driver Ben Searcy.
Right from the get-go, O’Dowd was on a mission, taking out the first two stages before building his lead to nine seconds after winning the fourth stage.
In what was an extremely close encounter, O’Dowd eventually claimed the win by just 12 seconds over Searcy and brought the total points margin to 26 points with two rounds to go.
“Before the event, we were really mindful of being nearly 40 points behind Ben in the (WA) championship,” O’Dowd said.
“I guess the championship is out of my hands in a way. But anything can happen in rallying. Craig Rando may still play a part; he had some bad luck here but as we saw at Grimwade, he is pretty quick.
“From here all I can do is keep my head down, try and win the remaining events and then see how things play out.”
O’Dowd wasn’t the only ARC name to be running the round with young gun Max McRae running in his first rally since May’s Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland.
Behind the wheel of the DirtFish Ford Fiesta alongside Bill Hayes, McRae showed plenty of pace throughout the five stages and finished the event on a 2WD podium.
Also ending the event in eighth place overall, McRae was thrilled to be back behind the wheel as he looks to stay sharp in between ARC rounds.
“Three months out of the car definitely left me a little bit rusty – especially in the rain,” McRae said
“I’ve spent more time in the Radical race car recently, so I had to get my head around a real change in the driving style. It helped that this was the first event I was coming back to.
“I did the Karri Rally last year, so I knew a bit about what to expect.
“There’s always something to learn and understanding more on how to dial the car and my driving style into the evolving conditions and the grip coming from the road is really valuable.”
Both drivers are expected to run in the WA championship’s penultimate round, the Darling 200 on 2 October.
Feature photo: Jarrod Sierociak