Reigning Motorsport Australia WA Rally Champions (WARC) John O’Dowd and co-driver Toni Feaver have started their Championship defence on a high, claiming victory in the Truck Wholesale WA Bakers Hill Sprint.
With 37 crews battling it out in perfect conditions in the Northam region, O’Dowd and Feaver picked up where they left off in 2019, guiding their WRC2 spec Truck Wholesale WA Skoda Fabia R5 to six stage wins out of an available eight.
The duo started well winning the opening two stages before Craig Rando and Stephen Wade claimed the next two stages – with just one second the difference in both stages.
That’s as close as Rando and Wade got to causing an upset though as O’Dowd and Feaver turned it on to win the event’s remaining four stages, taking out a 53 second victory over the Rando Constructions Subaru Impreza WRX STI.
Rounding out the podium was Ben Searcy with co-driver James Marquet in their Swift Motorsport Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9.
Despite coming away with the win, O’Dowd admitted the win was no easy feat.
“I was itching to go but for some reason I had a slow start, and I had a spin near the end of the third stage and lost a bit of time having to reverse back out,” O’Dowd said.
“The drive shaft broke just before the last two stages, it happened right on the start line and we were lucky to get through.
“We had some good competition in Craig Rando and Ben Searcy, their pace was impressive and it’s great to have good competition, keeps things interesting.
Photo: Tim Allott
For Rando, the result was a massive confidence booster ahead of second round in September.
“Winning two stages was a bit of a shock, but the stages were really good, spot on, we had a great day,” Rando said.
“It was good to do battle with O’Dowd and Searcy, it’s taking time to sink in that I’m rubbing shoulders with competitors of that calibre. My confidence is there now, knowing I can battle it out.”
It was a close affair in the 2WD class, with the result going right down to the last stage as Glenn Alcorn and co-driver Jonathan Charlesson pipped reigning class champions Razvan and Ioana Vlad by just five seconds.
The two crews had been trading blows all day with Alcorn and Charlesson in their classic Pipeline Technics 1978 Ford Escort going faster on four stages and the Maxyrally.com.au 2006 Ford Fiesta better on three stages, while nothing could separate the two cars on the event’s second stage.
However, Alcorn and Charlesson ultimately took out the win thanks to their sixth and eighth stage wins where they were faster by three and half seconds or more on each occasions.
“It was an epic battle all day, between myself and Raz, which came down to the last stage. It was thrilling and it kept me on my toes,” Alcorn said.
“The stages were brilliant, it was a good format and brilliantly run. There was everything, lots of jumps and bumps, that was fun, tricky technical sections, fast sections, the stages were really good.”
Photo: CMR Photographic
Other key results saw Abe Tuckett and Glenn Macneall take out the Clubman Cup behind the wheel of the Humble Bee Finance Hyundai Excel, while Graeme and Kathy Miles were fastest in the Clubman Masters.
The WARC continues later this year with the Make Smoking History Forest Rally and Experts Cup to take place on 12-13 September.