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The battle for 2014 WA Rally Championship (WARC) honours will intensify when round five, the LRT Custom Engineering Lewana Stages, gets underway on Saturday, July 26.

The rally is the second last event of the season for Outright competitors and will be run over fast-flowing gravel roads near Balingup, while in a bonus for spectators, former WRC star, Alister McRae, will drive his Escort BDA as a course car on the event.

Subaru WRX driver John O’Dowd (pictured) is chasing his first ever championship win. He’s on top of the leaderboard and is one of just a handful of competitors to have claimed points from every round so far this season.

Rob Webber, in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, is second and 17 points behind O’Dowd, while reigning champ Leigh Hynes, who lost his championship lead after his WRX broke its steering in round four, is third by one point.

Hynes said it was a big job getting the car ready for the event but repairs were coming along well.

In the 2WD Championship and Clubman Cup Series, the LRT Lewana Stages is the third last rally for the year. Sean Keating, who’s leading the 2WD competition after claiming maximum points from every round so far, joked about his tactic for the rally.

“My approach will be to back it off five per cent and only drive at 105 per cent,” the feisty Nissan Silvia driver said. “Hopefully I have a clean rally and keep the lead on the points.”

Rally stalwart Andy van Kann, who is competing in a Toyota Corolla with rookie co-driver Abbey Hayes, is second in the championship.

Hayes is also leading the charge to claim the title of 2014 Rookie Co-driver, while 2013 Rookie Driver, Hugh Harmer, is third in the 2WD competition.

2013 2WD Champion Driver Razvan Vlad, who’s failed to complete any rounds of the 2014 WARC so far has made improvements to his Ford Fiesta in the hope of making it more reliable.

“We got new driveshafts and also got them heat treated. Hopefully this will make them stronger,” he said.

Meanwhile, 2013 2WD Challenge winner Leo Iriks has come out of retirement for the event and will compete in a Ford Escort.

In the Clubman Cup competition, Carl Rattenbury, also in an Escort, is ahead on points and is the only driver to have finished every event so far this year. He’s aiming for his third Lewana Stages win.

Greg Flood (Mitsubishi Lancer) is second in the championship and rookie driver, Shane Harmer (Holden Commodore) is third.

Jason Lowther, from LRT Custom Engineering, hopes to provide tough competition for the boys and in his Toyota Corolla.

”To win the even that we sponsor would be a great achievement for the team,” he said.

The LRT Custom Engineering Lewana Stages will be run around the old Grimwade town site and provides several spectacular vantage points for rally fans.

Spectators are encouraged to get to the stages early to see former World Rally Championship driver Alister McRae in action. In a major coup for fans, McRae, who holds both a British Rally Championship and an Asia Pacific Championship, will drive an Escort as one of the event’s safety cars.

The rally starts at 1pm on Saturday, July 26 from Jim MacDonald Oval on Southwest Hwy in Kirup.

Photo: Stuart Bowes

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