The first round of the 2020 Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship (WARC), the Truck Wholesale WA Bakers Hill Sprint, was held near Northam on Saturday with 37 competitors.
In perfect rally conditions, competitors tackled two stages at the Bakers Hill Sprint, run twice in one direction and twice in reverse, to a total of 58.2 competitive kilometres.
Not without issues, the reigning champion John O’Dowd and co-driver Toni Feaver in their WRC2 spec Truck Wholesale WA Skoda Fabia R5 took the win. In second place was Craig Rando and Stephen Wade in their Rando Constructions Subaru Impreza WRX STI and rounding out the top three was Ben Searcy with co-driver James Marquet in their Swift Motorsport Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9.
O’Dowd said that it took him a couple of stages to find his rhythm.
“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 reversing 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.
“It’s the first thing that’s ever gone wrong in the car - we’ve done nearly 2,000 competitive kilometres in it now, and drive shafts break, it happens. When I heard the bang, I thought that we’d be lucky to finish.
“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.”
John O'Dowd and Toni Feaver leapt to victory on the first event of the year. Photo: CMR Photographic
O’Dowd thanked Race Torque and his co-driver, along with Bakers Hill property owner Tolley Challis.
“Tolley did a great job on the new roads. It was well organised and a good training day for new officials - it ran smoothly, so all-in-all an excellent rally.”
Finishing 53 seconds behind O’Dowd was Craig Rando who won two stages.
“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’s been a bit of a break and I felt pretty rusty, but it was good to get in and shake the cobwebs out.
“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.”
Rando thanked organisers, officials, the Challis family and volunteers both new and old who he said did a fabulous job.
Impreza WRX STI
Lancer Evo 9
It was cat and mouse in the 2WD class in a battle between two Fords, the old and the new. The classic Pipeline Technics 1978 Ford Escort of Glenn Alcorn with co-driver Jonathan Charlesson got the edge over the Maxyrally.com.au 2006 Ford Fiesta of reigning champion Razvan Vlad with wife and co-driver Ioana Vlad, finishing faster by 5 seconds.
“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.
“We dropped some time on the fourth stage with an engine misfire, but other than we had a clean run.”
2WD winner Glenn Alcorn in his Ford Escort RS2000. Photo: Tim Allott
It was Alcorn’s first rally with co-driver Charlesson.
“Jonathan did a brilliant job, faultless. It was great to be rallying again, I was smiling from ear to ear and my heart was racing, it was really fun and to win was incredible.”
Vlad said that despite his car not being suited to the stages due to the low grip of his high-powered front-wheel-drive, he enjoyed the battle with Alcorn.
“I was happy we were in the fight and to finish second. A lot of work was done on the car over the break so I’m really looking forward to the high-speed events to show what the car can do.”
Taking the final step on the podium was Alex White and Lachlan White in their Information Proficiency Sigma Data Nissan Silvia S13.
Max McRae’s rally debut ended with a with mechanical issue and he retired after Stage 5.
Max McRae was driving well until engine problems halted his progress. Photo: Tim Allott
Clubman Cup and Clubman Masters
The Clubman class is designed to be more accessible to those with less time, less budget or those who are new to the sport.
Winning the Clubman Cup in their Humble Bee Finance Hyundai Excel was Abe Tuckett and Australia’s most decorated co-driver, Glenn Macneall. In second place was Rod Fowler and Keith Mayes in their Sussan Fowler Peugeot 206 GTI, and third was awarded to rookies Glenn Cawood and Murish O’Connell in their Shedforce Mitsubishi Lancer.
Young rookie Jarrod Sewell finished in fifth place and has only had his licence for six months. His message to anyone thinking of rallying is to give it a go.
“Rallying is fun and it’s not expensive as you think and there’s always a cheaper way of doing things, like you don’t need new tyres every rally. Just get out there and drive,” the 17-year-old Qantas avionics apprentice said.
Overall Clubman Cup
Overall Clubman Masters
Round Two of the WARC is the Make Smoking History Forest Rally and Experts Cup held in and around Harvey and Collie on 12 and 13 September. This year, it is not a round of 2020 Australian Rally Championship.
For results, please visit www.rallywa.com
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