O’Dowd grabs ‘nail-biting’ Targa West finish

pic: Targa West and Brett Sandells

John O’Dowd has claimed a hard-fought fourth place at the 2018 ‘Make Smoking History’ Targa West rally in Perth, his best-ever result at the Perth-based tarmac event.

O’Dowd, back in a tarmac-spec Maximum Motorsport Subaru WRX STI and partnering with experienced co-driver Ben Searcy, set some impressive stage times during Leg 1, and finished the leg in outright fourth.

“I really enjoyed the damp conditions on Thursday and Friday”, commented a happy O’Dowd after the event. “I’ve always liked the wet, and we had selected soft compound tyres hoping for some rain through the weekend.”

Unfortunately for the Truck Wholesale WA driver, the rain didn’t return during Saturday and Sunday. And with only six tyres permitted to be used during the event, managing the wear on his soft-compound rubber became a priority.

With drying conditions, O’Dowd struggled on Saturday morning’s big horsepower stages, dropping down the order to seventh. But a fight-back during the Bullsbrook stages saw O’Dowd and Searcy re-claim fourth place.

That put him at the head of a pack of four cars, all fighting over fourth place and separated by only 17 seconds.

The final day of the event featured three passes of the 10km Malaga stage, and then three times around the 2km Perth super-special stage. On the last pass of Malaga, Brendan Templeman’s EVO 8 was four seconds quicker than the Maximum Motorsport Subaru, leaving just a one second advantage going into the City of Perth super-special stages.

But the experienced O’Dowd pulled back four seconds on his first run of City of Perth, he and Templeman then dead-heated the second pass, and the Subaru driver took another two seconds in the final stage of the event to clinch fourth place.

“It was a bit tight in the end!”, a relieved O’Dowd commented. “It’s pretty difficult to gain any time during those short spectator stages. But it was ‘all or nothing’ with only a one second lead. So to pull out six seconds in less than six kilometres was really pleasing.”

“I’m really happy with the way Ben and I were able to fight back to fourth place and then hold it. It’s been a while since Ben and I have rallied together, but he is such a professional co-driver it was really easy working with him. Plus it’s my best result at Targa West!”

“It’s been great to be back in the tarmac-spec Subaru, but we’ll now start preparing for the final round of the WARC in just over four weeks time. I’m leading the championship, but Stephen Oxley has been on my tail all year. I’ve been working towards winning the WA state championship, and I need to, at least, beat Stephen, and preferably win the event, to take the championship.”

John O’Dowd is supported by Knightcorp Insurance, Pacific Finance, Rent WA, Truck Wholesale WA and Maximum Motorsport.

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