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John O'Dowd has taken a massive step forward in his rally career, committing to the full Australian Rally Championship in his new Skoda Fabia R5. O'Dowd, who was the ARC2 champion in 2017 and last year claimed the WA state championship, recently took delivery of his Skoda R5, which was driven by Eli Evans to last years Australian Rally Championship title. "This is a massive step forward for me," the West Australian commented. "Below WRC level, the Skoda R5 is clearly the car to have. Skoda have been developing the Fabia R5 for years, and it has been successful all over the world. "The car I've purchased is the one Eli Evans used last year, and before that Ole Christian Veiby used in the Asia-Pacific Championship. So it's a car with a great history, it is really well sorted and is going to be competitive straight out of the box." For the past few years O'Dowd has contested ARC and WARC events in production-based Subaru WRX STIs. "It's going to be a massive jump. These cars have more suspension travel, better brakes, and more power on tap. Plus it is left-hand drive, so that will take a bit of getting used to. But I'm really excited to step into a car that can compete with the best crews in the ARC. "Although I own the car, Race Torque are looking after the preparation and servicing for me. So I've got one of the best teams in the country. They have won multiple Asia-Pacific titles running these cars; there is plenty of knowledge to tap into." Joining John in the Skoda R5 will be co-driver Toni Feaver. "It's great to have Toni back in the car with me. She is one of the best co-drivers around and has experience in these Skoda Fabia R5s. "We worked together last year, and claimed the WARC title together. So we're used to each other and that will be huge bonus; there are enough other new things to learn with this car!" The opening round of the Australian Rally Championship is the 'Make Smoking History' Forest Rally. This is O'Dowd's home event, and he will contest both the national and state championships this year. "It was great to get my first state title under the belt in 2018. I'd love to repeat it again this year." The 'Make Smoking History' Forest Rally begins in April 5, with a spectator-friendly stage around the Busselton foreshore, before crews move south-east for two days of stages in the state forests near Nannup.

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