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Another rally and another clean sweep of stage wins for John O’Dowd and Toni Feaver at the Wheels on Yirrigan Kumho Tyre Stages held in Kirup yesterday (6 July 2019), the fourth round of the CAMS Zestino Tyres Western Australian Rally Championship (WARC).
Thirty cars lined up to start Round Four in Kirup, approximately 50 kilometres south east of Bunbury, and 21 cars finished. Competitors raced the clock over six stages compromising of 132 competitive kilometres in two-minute intervals, driving a total distance of 262 kilometres.
O’Dowd and Feaver finished on top, 1:42 minutes ahead of Ben Searcy and Jimmy Marquet in their Swift Motorsport Mitsubishi Evo 9, and a further 7:05 minutes behind was Barry McGuiness and Stephen Wade in their BMG Autos Subaru Impreza WRX.
On paper it seems that there’s no stopping O’Dowd and his winning streak, but O’Dowd said that he had to push quite hard.
“Ben Searcy kept me honest all day, he was very fast, and I think he’s going to get quicker as he gets more used to gravel rallies. We had to push to win every stage,” O’Dowd said.
It’s well known that his car, the Truck Wholesale WA Skoda Fabia R5, is the most powerful in the WARC that wouldn’t be out of place in the sport’s top tier competition. It’s a level below a World Rally Car and used in Europe in WRC2 events. That said, the driver needs to know what he’s doing in order to get the most out of such a car and minimise mistakes.
“The roads were very wet, very slippy, very challenging in parts. We had a few excursions, a few overshoots, but we managed to keep our nose clean and get to the end. The car ran faultlessly and Toni [Feaver] did an excellent job,” O’Dowd said.
“The event was very well organised, and I’d like to give a special thanks to all the officials and volunteers who did road closures and camped out in the wet – we really appreciate what they do more than they’ll ever know.
“It was also great to see Nicolas Box and Leigh Hynes back rallying, hopefully they’ll be competing a lot more. And to Dave Smith who won the rookie award, good on him I say. With rookies like Dave Smith, we’ll all have to watch out!”
O’Dowd, clearly delighted with the win and his position in the WARC, sits on 351 points on the Drivers Leaderboard, ahead of equal second place holders Ben Searcy and Craig Rando on 187 points respectively, followed by Barry McGuiness on 155 points. It seems that the battle for second and third place will be the one to watch.
Searcy said that he expected the conditions to be much worse.
“The stages were awesome, great roads and they held up very well considering the water levels in the area. It was a tad slippery, but to be honest I expected a lot worse,” Searcy said.
“Being the first car was a definite challenge, not having any marks to follow or to use as a guide. The car ran pretty much faultlessly apart from me hitting a few logs and bending a few control arms and suspension parts.”
1st O’DOWD/FEAVER Skoda Fabia R5 1:29:41.1
2nd SEARCY/MARQUET Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1:31:23.3
3rd MCGUINNESS/WADE Subaru Impreza WRX 1:36:46.2
Ben Searcy / Jimmy Marquet. Photo: CMR Photographic
With the leader of 2WD Drivers Championship Razman Vlad not competing at the Wheels on Yirrigan Kumho Tyre Stages rally, it was an opportunity for other drivers to close the gap.
Finishing fastest in their Information Proficiency/Sigma Data Nissan Silvia S13 was husband and wife duo Alex and Lisa White, 6:47 minutes ahead of Anthony Chudleigh and Tim Wright in their Ford Fiesta ST150. Rounding out the top three a further 1:15 minutes behind was Stephen Dixon and Paul Van Der Mey in their Dixon’s Auto Tuning Services Honda Integra.
With the win, White is just 14 points behind Vlad in the Drivers Championship, while co-driver Lisa White’s lead has increased by 85 points in the Co-Drivers Championship.
“It’s not about the Championship for us, that’d be a bonus,” Lisa White said.
“The conditions were definitely challenging and changed from sticky to slippy. It takes three things to do well in a rally – a well prepared car, a good driver and a good co-driver, and it all came together for us this time. The car didn’t miss a beat, the whole event played into our hands with our consistent approach to each and every stage. It’s really important to be able to control your right foot on such a slippery event.
“It was shame to see so many not make it to the end, but that’s the nature of that rally.
“We were really pleased to get to the end of the rally and find we’d done enough to win, which we weren’t expecting. In the testing conditions, we really had to work together to bring it home,” Darlington resident Lisa White said.
A special mention needs to be made of fourth place finisher and fastest rookie David Smith and Keian Guy in their S’n’G Motorsport Daihatsu Charade. Smith has switched sides from rally administrator to rally driver.  
Smith said, wryly, that there’s nothing that settles the nerves like fronting up to the start line of your very first rally stage and have the officials advise that the whole stage is extremely slippery.
“Despite it being slippery and muddy and wet, we had an absolute ball,” Smith said.
“Thanks heaps to Keian “Giggles” Guy for writing and calling the pace notes that kept us on the road, well mostly on the road…but no one will see that in-car footage because what goes on in the car stays in the car,” he quipped.
“It was a bit like Survivor out there – we managed to Outwit, Outplay and Outlast, well mainly Outlast, and we didn’t go fast enough to get into trouble and as a result came away with tenth outright, fourth 2WD and first rookie, not bad for someone who is half way to a century.”
“I should’ve bought a car years ago when my sense of self-preservation wasn’t as high. I hope the photographers photoshop a lot of ‘motion blur’ into their pictures of the Charade so we look as fast outside as it felt inside!”
1st WHITE/WHITE Nissan Silvia S13 1:40:16.8
2nd CHUDLEIGH/WRIGHT Ford Fiesta ST150 1:47:03.4
3rd DIXON/VAN DER MEY Honda Integra 1:48:17.9
Alex and Lisa White. Photo: CMR Photographic
David Smith / Keian Guy, fastest rookie. Photo: CMR Photographic
Clubman Masters

In the Clubman Masters, two of the three starters finished the rally with Lance Stringer and co-driver Chris Parish fastest in their Lawnswood Nissan Silvia S13. Trailing by 2:21 in second place was veteran Andy van Kann with co-driver Steph Esterbauer in their Norock Toyota Corolla.
“I’ve had the flu for the past couple of weeks and have been walking around in a bit of daze, but I since woke up on the muddy tracks,” Stringer said.
“It was awesome fun, I love the mud, I did my apprenticeship sliding around paddocks at B&S Balls in my youth – that was before all the fun stuff got outlawed.
“Having said that, I got carried away at the first creek crossing, shot off the other side of the bank, but the camber fell away on the other side and I slammed the car into the bank, bending the front and rear suspension and had to nurse it to finish the rally.
“I was missing usual sparring partners Carl Rattenbury and Dean Courtis – where were they?” said Stringer, clearly stirring the pot.
Stringer leads the Clubman Masters Championship by 140 points.
Clubman Masters
1st STRINGER/PARISH Nissan Silvia S13 1:08:36.3
2nd VAN KANN/ESTERBAUER Toyota Corolla TE27 1:10:57.3
Lance Stringer / Chris Parish. Photo: Tim Allott

Clubman Cup 

The Clubman Cup and Clubman Masters competitors competed on the same first four stages as the WARC.

In a dramatic finish, Stephen Vass and Ashley Burton rolled their Perth City Peugeot and Used Cars Datsun 1600 nine kilometres from the end of the rally.

“We managed to finish the stage on its wheels and cross the line to take the win,” Vass said.

“Even though the car was heavily damaged in the roll over, we’re happy with the win.”

Vass said that the car is mechanically fine, but the body is damaged and the team has already started work on it.

Vass leads the Clubman Cup by 148 points with two rounds remaining.

Clubman Cup
1st VASS/BURTON Datsun 1600 1:11:11.9
2nd LAKE/HALL Datsun 240Z 1:13:22.6
3rd WRIGHT/WRIGHT Hyundai Excel 1:15:13.5

Stephen Vass / Ashley Burton. Photo: CMR Photographic

The next rally is Round Five, the Darling 200 in Jarrahdale on 14th September 2019 which will be a round for WARC, 2WD, Clubman Cup and Clubman Masters.
For more information and results visit www.rallywa.com
John O’Dowd / Toni Feaver. Photo: Tim Allott

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