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A bumper field has registered to take part in the Lewana Stages rally this weekend to test their skills and machinery against surprise 2011 Western Australian Rally Championship leader John O’Dowd.

After a strong result at the Quit Forest rally, where the Wattle Grove resident finished second overall, and a solid fourth at the Experts Cup, O’Dowd [47 points] leads the championship by seven points from Leigh Hynes and John Macara [on 40 points each].

“We’ve had a couple of solid results but there is a great bunch of guys in the field with a lot of experience and that have done it for a lot longer than I have,” said O’Dowd. “While we’re in the lead of the championship, it’s probably more just the way the cards have fallen.”

A new, albeit very experienced, navigator for the Maximum Motorsport outfit should boost O’Dowd’s chances of having a successful pace-noted event.

“I have a new navigator this weekend in Ben Searcy so we’re hoping to go down there and have some fun and give it our best shot,” he said.

O’Dowd will face stiff competition from seasoned WARC titlists and other competitors this weekend if he is to hold on to the top rung of the leader board.

Former champion Hynes has vowed to make the most of his good luck in Collie where he was fortunate to be the last man standing and push for another win this weekend.

Meanwhile another former WARC title holder in Alex Stone – currently equal fourth in the standings - will look to fight back this weekend after he suffered a mechanical failure on stage four at the previous event.

In the 2WD driver standings Geoff Leatt-Hayter [71] is currently 10 points ahead of Kiel Douglas [61] and the pair are expected to square off again at Lewana after a win a piece this year.

“Kiel has rebuilt his engine and is obviously going a lot quicker so that means that you just have to make sure you don’t make any mistakes and that you stay on the pace,” he said.

However Leatt-Hayter was quick not to dismiss the rest of the 2WD field.

“I think the fight will be with everyone; there’s about half a dozen of us who can go fast enough to win the next event,” said Leatt-Hayter. “I think it will be a case of who sneezes first.”

Craig Puzey sits in third place [45 points] in the 2WD championship, locked in a tight battle with fourth-placed Dylan King [44 points]. Tim Ralli rounds out the top five in that category.

The rally, hosted by Ascot Motoring Club, has changed since last year. The event is now pace-noted – making for faster times through the stages - and the rally will be held during the day and at night for the first time ever.

The spectator points are free entry and are located at stages one and three while camping is available (by arrangement) in the area adjacent to the service park.


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