West Australian John O’Dowd proved that ‘you need to be in it to win it’ when he claimed the inaugural 2017 ARC2 title at Kennards Hire Rally Australia.
O’Dowd, with co-driver Ken Sheil, was set to sit the winner-takes-all final out with the pair finished fourth on the ARC2 points table after Lightforce Rally SA. Only the top three 4WD and 2WD teams received a ticket to the big dance at Kennards Hire Rally Australia.
However, O’Dowd was elevated into the final when Maximum Motorsport stable-mate Brad Markovic withdrew from the event to continue his recovery from back surgery and the rest is history.
In the all-Subaru Impreza WRX STi final, Tony Sullens and Kaylie Newell looked to be in the box seat early, sitting second outright and leading ARC2 for most of the day. However, a drop in oil pressure on the day’s second last stage left them stranded roadside. Their problems continued on day two, a broken control arm sending them off the road and into a paddock, ending their event and ARC2 campaign.
This left O’Dowd and Craig Brooks to fight for the title.
Both drivers acquitted themselves well to the tough conditions, in particular on a very wet and slippery Sunday morning. In the end it was O’Dowd that was able to negotiate through an incident-free event and put over two minutes between himself and Brooks after three days of competition.
“We’re thrilled with how we’ve been able to wrap up 2017,” O’Dowd said.
“We exceeded our own expectations at Rally Australia and I’m really proud of what we achieved.
“Ken and I had a ball and we can’t wait to go back next year.”
As an added bonus, O’Dowd and Sheil also claimed their first ARC podium finish, third outright on the ARC’s biggest stage and grabbed third in the national championship.
Their success in 2017 has them chomping at the bit for an even bigger 2018.
“We’ll be doing the full ARC in 2018 and I can’t wait,” O’Dowd said.
Time behind the wheel could be the secret to O’Dowd’s success this year. In addition to all five ARC rounds, he also competed in the WA state rally championship where he came agonisingly close to the title win, falling just two points short despite winning the final round at the Carrington’s Safari Rally.
His demanding schedule and west-coast location provided a logistical challenge for the Maximum Motorsport team. Lightforce Rally SA saw O’Dowd trade his 2007 Subaru WRX STi for Dean Herridge’s 2009 WRX STi hatch due to a state championship event the week before.
O’Dowd said he had received overwhelming support from his home state this year and particularly at Rally Australia.
“We had lots of calls and messages from WA – so a big ‘thank you’ to everyone for that,” said O’Dowd.
“Also thanks to Maximum Motorsport who did a great job all year and our loyal sponsors – Knightcorp Insurance, Pacific Finance, Truck Wholesale WA, O’Dowd Transport and Rent WA.”