O’Dowd secures WA title with Expert win

John O’Dowd and Toni Feaver are once again the rally champions of Western Australia after winning the weekend’s Make Smoking History Experts Cup.

A huge field of 55 crews were entered in the Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship season finale on Saturday, however it was O’Dowd who took control, winning four of the six stages.

Heading into the round with a 40-point lead over the second placed Ben Searcy, O’Dowd simply needed to finish the rally within the top five in order to secure his third championship in four years.

Searcy and co-driver Daymon Nicoli were the first to draw blood though, comfortably winning the first stage by 13 seconds over O’Dowd and Feaver, who were just doing what he needed to do and finishing the stage.

O’Dowd then did his best to reduce the deficit over the next two stages, beating Searcy on both stages and steering his Skoda Fabia R5 to within one second off Searcy.

Photo: Jarrod Sierociak

The event was turned on its head on the fourth stage when Searcy had a problem with his driveline and he was forced to run the remainder of the event in 2WD.

Finishing SS4 in 19th, Searcy made some slight improvements over the remaining stages, going 11th and eighth fastest, however it wasn’t enough to keep his podium as he settled for fourth place.

Searcy’s bad luck allowed O’Dowd to cruise home to victory and although RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) junior Max McRae won the penultimate stage – it wasn’t enough to dampen the mood in the Truck Wholesale camp as they won the final stage and secured the championship in the process.

Following his fifth Experts Cup victory, the 51-year-old was thrilled with the taking out the Championship. “

“We’re thrilled to win the rally – we approached the rally cautiously knowing what we needed to do to win the Championship,” O’Dowd said.

Photo: Jarrod Sierociak

“The car was faultless, Race Torque have done an excellent job all year as has Toni my co-driver

“It would’ve been nice to race Ben until the end but unfortunately he had some issues during the rally, but he’s been consistent all year and kept me honest that’s for sure. Hats off to both Ben and Craig [Rando].”

Finishing the season finale one minute behind O’Dowd and Feaver in second place were Craig Rando and Stephen Wade, while Dave Thomas and Paul Helm rounded out the event podium.

Gary Mills and Mitch Gray enjoyed a two-minute victory in the 2WD Championship over Alex and Lisa White, despite winning only two of the six stages.

Photo: Tim Allott

The duo were the only crew to finish every stage inside the top three but were essentially gifted the win when Glenn Alcorn and Jonathan Charlesson, who won half of the stages, failed to finish the first stage.

Click here to view full results from the weekend. 

Feature photo: Tim Allott