Rally: Gooseberry Hill driver O’Dowd ninth at Ballarat ARC event

Rally: Gooseberry Hill driver O’Dowd ninth at Ballarat ARC event
Rally: Gooseberry Hill driver O’Dowd ninth at Ballarat ARC event

GOOSEBERRY Hill driver John O’Dowd has finished ninth in his first Australian Rally Championship event on the east coast on the weekend.

The WA driver was 11th overall in the first heat of the opening round of the CAMS ARC, the Eureka Rally around Ballarat, then climbed to ninth in the second heat.

“It feels so good to finish,” he said.

To cap off a solid weekend, O’Dowd was also third in ARC2, a new category for competitors who compete in their home ARC event and one other.

O’Dowd, joined by new co-driver Ken Shiel, said he took a cautious approach to the start of the rally.

“We wanted to work our way into it, because it was our first event together,” he said.

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“We took things easy on Saturday and then ramped it up on Sunday.”

In the second heat, O’Dowd also experimented with tyres.

“The roads in the east have a lot more grip than we’re used to in WA,” he said.

“We’re still finding our speed and trying out different compounds.”

Kalamunda driver Brad Markovic and new co-driver Toni Feaver made a solid start too, finishing eighth in the first heat of the Eureka Rally.

“To come out on our first stage together and set the fifth fastest time was awesome,” Markovic said.

“We hadn’t had time for testing and with a new pairing, and the new MRF tyres, we were thrilled.”

However, the Auto One Subaru WRX STI developed a clutch issue from stage 2.

“We weren’t able to run as fast, but we were still happy with where we finished in heat 1,” Markovic said.

The WA driver struggled with a lack of power halfway through the second heat and had an off-road adventure.

“We went into a left-hander on stage 15 and just didn’t have enough power, so we ran wide,” he said.

“I got out and started changing the right rear tyre that was punctured and that’s when I noticed the front right was blown as well.”

With only one spare on board, Markovic put that to the front and limped out of stage. The off round adventure cost him more than 10 minutes in the end.

Markovic did not complete the rest of that heat and therefore received derived times for the final three stages.

“It means we still came away with points from heat two,” he said.

“It’s a long season and it’s all about scoring points throughout the year.”