Rally: WA drivers O’Dowd and Sheil win ARC2 championship at Rally Australia


John O’Dowd and Ken Sheil celebrate after Rally Australia. Pictures: Wishart Media
John O’Dowd and Ken Sheil celebrate after Rally Australia. Pictures: Wishart Media

WA rally racers John O’Dowd and Ken Sheil became the 2017 ARC2 champions last weekend.

The pair secured the second-tier CAMS Australian Rally Championship (ARC) division in the winner-takes-all final against Tony Sullens (NSW) and Craig Brooks (Tasmania) at the Rally Australia on November 16-19.

O’Dowd and Sheil were also the third-fastest ARC competitors at the world-stage event and finished third in the national championship for the year.

“We’re thrilled with how we’ve been able to wrap up 2017,” O’Dowd said.

Given it was their first time at Rally Australia, the pair took a cautious approach to the event.

“We couldn’t push too hard in some places, because we had to manage the tyres and make sure we got to the end of the event,” O’Dowd said.

“Looking at the roads during reconnaissance, I had visions of us changing tyres all weekend, because we didn’t know how much the road were going to get cut up from the World Rally Championship cars going through.”

O’Dowd flies at 2017 Rally Australia.

The event featured the longest stage the pair had competed in, at almost 49km.

“The long stage was challenging, but I enjoyed it,” O’Dowd said.

“I liked all the stages, even though they were tough.”

While many competitors had off-road excursions in the demanding conditions, O’Dowd was able to negotiate through an incident-free event.

“We changed the ride height of the car after the first day and that helped with the rough roads,” he said.

“We also changed from a medium tyre to a soft tyre for the final day.

“In general, the car performed really well and, as always, Ken was spot on with the notes.”

O’Dowd finished the first day of the three-day event in eighth place in the ARC competition and already ahead of the ARC2 division.

The Gooseberry Hill driver maintained his ARC2 lead and moved up to fourth in the ARC at the end of day two, before taking third place in the ARC competition for the event.

“We exceeded our own expectations at Rally Australia and I’m really proud of what we achieved,” he said.

“Ken and I had a ball and we can’t wait to go back next year.”

While the success of 2017 is still settling in, O’Dowd said he couldn’t wait to see what he and Sheil could achieve next year.

“We’ll be doing the full ARC in 2018,” he said.

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