It was an all Subaru podium on Saturday for the fourth round of the CAMS Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship (WARC) with Stephen Oxley beating out fellow Subaru drivers Kody Reynolds and John O’Dowd.
The new course layout comprising of 127 competitive kilometres was well received by competitors, and held up well despite wet weather earlier in the week. Described by Oxley as “a rally for the brave” the course had many large WRC-style blind crests which commanded notes to be on point as to what lay on the other side.
WA Rally Championship
Last year’s battle at Kirup between current championship front runners John O’Dowd and Stephen Oxley was a close one, and this year the two drivers would once again keep each other on their toes.
Championship frontrunner O’Dowd and co-driver Toni Feaver managed to claim the quickest time in the Maximum Motorsport Subaru STi on five of the six stages. But throttle problems on SS3, which was suspected aftermath from a hard jump landing on an earlier stage, cost them a lot of time in a stage which Oxley and co-driver Michael Wood shone.
“The main objective was to beat John in the championship,” said Oxley. “We probably tried too hard on the first two stages and over drove it, which led to a couple of minor errors. But, they add up and he beat us on both of those stages.
“Then when we came into service I had a bit of a deeper think about our performance and pulled my head in. It must’ve worked, we went out into SS3 and had a really good run – our pace notes worked really well with no errors. We were 29 seconds faster than anyone in the field on that stage and were really happy with our time.
“On SS4 our car had a bit of a love affair with a heap of mulch – we were nearly stranded on the top and lost a few seconds. It would’ve been a bit embarrassing if we remained stuck there. When we came in we realised we were leading by around three minutes due to John dropping back with his problem. When we went out to do the night stages we tried to take it reasonably easy. We didn’t want to lose that margin through going too hard and damaging something.”
Oxley and Wood kept the margin in the night stages and won the event outright by 3 minutes 20 seconds. Kody Reynolds and Anthony Staltari were the next to cross the finish line in the Trade Hire Subaru STI. O’Dowd and Feaver rounded out the podium in third, a mere five seconds behind Reynolds and Staltari.
In the 2WD Championship it was a clean sweep on all stages for Michael Joss and Megan Logue in the Michael Joss Racing Nissan Silvia S15. Joss and Logue’s times also saw them place fourth outright for the round.
“Last year’s event ended early with a coil pack failure on SS2, so this year is the first time I have driven these particular stages. It was a new challenge for us.
“The roads for SS1 and 2 were in excellent shape, and initially looked to have a lot of grip – but they were actually slippery and inconsistent. This made these two stages very challenging resulting in a far higher than normal number of ‘moments’.
“SS3 was a highlight – more consistent grip made that stage a lot more enjoyable to drive.”
Crossing the finish line 2 minutes 54 seconds behind Joss and Logue were current 2WD Championship leaders Alex and Lisa White in the Information Proficiency Sigma Data Nissan Silvia S13.
Throughout the event it was a battle for third between Simon Gratton and Richard Harris in the Honda Civic, and Dave and Kelly Thomas in the Rustic Metalworks Ford Escort. In the end it was Gratton and Harris who took the third place on the podium just over 8 minutes behind the leaders.
There was no hint from Stephen Mackinlay that it had been just over 10 years since he last competed at Kirup. Mackinlay and co-driver Lachlan Beresford were the first of the Clubman Cup competitors to cross the finish line in the LRT – Rillawood Mitsubishi Mirage.
“It was a fairly smooth weekend however I struggled on SS2,” said Mackinlay. “I made multiple errors costing time and giving me a mechanical scare, but other than that the car and Lachy were faultless.
“These are the best stages in WA as far as I am concerned and I loved every second. The blind crests, fast flowing corners and camber is just heaven for me.
“My personal highlight is claiming my first ever win with all my friends and family there to share it with me. If it wasn’t for all of them I would not be able to do this, and I want to thank them all for their help over the last two years. The other highlight is “Leigh’s Jump” and landing on one wheel.
“There is not much preparation to do for Experts Cup. However, as the event clashes with the Formula Vee BM Graphics Trophy Lachy is not available. My good friend David Christian will be sliding into the co-driver’s seat for his first ever gravel rally, something which should be awesome fun to share with him.”
Just over 3 minutes behind Mackinlay and Beresford was husband and wife team Graeme and Kathy Miles in the Miles Landscaping Mitsubishi Lancer. Stephen Vass and Ashley Burton were hot on their heels, crossing the finish line thirty seconds after in their Perth City Nissan Datsun 1600.
The next and final round for CAMS WA Rally Championship competitors is the Make Smoking History Experts Cup held on September 15 in Collie. It is the penultimate round for the 2WD Championship and Clubman Cup competitors who will have the Darling 200 as their final round on November 10.
For a full listing of results, please see: http://www.rallyresults.com.au/warc/2018/KirupStages/default.asp