John O’Dowd has snatched an extra position on the final stage of Targa South West 2019.
Going into the final pass of the 3km Manjimup Truffles Pemberton street stage, O’Dowd sat five seconds behind Dennis Heller. But relishing the tighter, more technical stages, O’Dowd was six seconds quicker, taking fifth place overall by a single second.
“It was a good way to finish in what turned out to be a tough event”, the Perth driver explained. “We ran our Skoda R5 in this event, but in gravel-spec. We’d planned to run a proper tarmac setup. Unfortunately some of the suspension parts for the R5 didn’t arrive in time, so we played it safe and put a set of tarmac tyres on the car but with a gravel suspension set up. With Saturday being pretty wet, I was a bit tentative to be honest.”
“The short street stages were great. They were really enjoyable, and the Skoda R5, with the amount of torque available out of the corners, was in its element.”
“But on the longer stages, which were fairly open and fast, we lost time. Not only were we more cautious into corners, we were down on power. The R5 tops out at about 185km/h, but the speed limit for the event is 200km/h. We drove some of those longer stages flat-out in 5th gear for most of the stage. So we really had a disadvantage, as the EVOs we were competing against were all set up for this type of event.”
“That said, it was a really good practice run ahead of Targa West in August. We’ll run a better suspension setup for tarmac, and we’ll try and get some more speed out of the R5.”
Joining O’Dowd in the Truck Wholesale WA Skoda was former WRC and APRC co-driver Glenn Macneall. “It was great having Glenn in the car. He has plenty of tarmac experience from his time in the WRC, and knows these Skoda R5s inside-out having won multiple APRC titles in them with Gaurav Gill. I learnt a lot over the course of two days.”
O’Dowd’s thoughts now switch back to gravel with the next event in the WARC, the Boddington Safari, just two weeks away. “We were second last year at Boddington, but I’d like to claim victory this year and make it three-from-three. Boddington is a really intense one-day rally, so we’ll need to be ‘on it’ from the first stage. Toni (Feaver) will be back in the car with me and I’m really looking forward to it.”
“After Boddington we have a short turn-around to get the car over to the east coast for Rally Tasmania. I’ve never competed on gravel in Tasmania before, so it will be a bit of an adventure. Even though I missed the Canberra round of the ARC, I’m still sitting in seventh in the championship and only a few points off fifth place. So if I can keep my nose clean and bank some decent times, I should be able to move forward on the leaderboard.”
The Boddington Safari is the next round of the WA Rally Championship and runs on Saturday June 1. Rally Tasmania starts on 21 June, with two days of forest rallying run near Launceston in Tasmania’s north.
John O’Dowd is supported by Knightcorp Insurance, Pacific Finance, Rent WA and Truck Wholesale WA.
Main Photo: Tim Allott