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In one of the closest finishes seen in Australian rallying in recent years, John O'Dowd has been 'pipped at the post' by just 0.5 seconds for victory at the 'Make Smoking History Forest Rally'.
"I can't believe it! It doesn’t get much closer than half a second after 140 competitive kilometres!", quipped O'Dowd at the end of the day.
Current APRC Asia Cup and Junior Cup champion Mike Young battled for the lead with O'Dowd throughout the afternoon. And while O'Dowd seemed to have Young's measure, a mistake on the penultimate stage cost O'Dowd dearly, opening the door for Young to storm home for his first WARC victory.
"Hats off to Mike; he drove brilliantly. We were both having a good hard go on the last loop of stages. He had a clear run, but I was balked by a car that was off-road on a tight right-hander. We over-shot the corner, took more than 20 seconds to get going again, which cut my lead down to nothing."
Contested near Harvey and Collie, the rally stages were run over roads that formed stages of Rally Australia 15 years ago. That meant plenty of loose gravel and rocks on the road surface, plenty of overshoots, and four different crews holding the outright lead during the day.
"Almost all of the stages were new to us, but the section where we lost all of our time had previously been used in the Experts Cup. So I know that section of road pretty well. But no excuses. Mike won fair and square."
"In hindsight, I should have been a bit more 'on it' from the start. I was pretty rusty during the first three stages. It wasn't until stage four, the 31km stage, that I started to get a bit of rhythm. Going into that second pass of the long stage around the dam, we had nearly 20 seconds on Mike. But, as I found out, one simple mistake can eat up 20 seconds pretty quickly."
"The result aside, it was fantastic to be back in the car. I think all of the regular crews in the WARC have missed rallying this year. The organisers have done an incredible job to work through all of the public health restrictions to get us back competing."
"And thanks to my co-driver Toni and the boys from Race Torque Engineering for preparing the car and looking after us."
There are just two events left to contest for the WA Rally Championship, the next being the Trade Hire Karri Rally on 3 October.
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