WARC: Expect a close battle in penultimate round

pic: Rally WA / CMR Photographic

Competitors prepare for battle. Round five of the CAMS Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship (WARC), the Wheels on Yirrigan Kumbo Tyre Kirup Stages rally, will be hotly contested on Saturday along forest stages near Grimwade and Kirup, about 220 kilometres south of Perth.

With just 32 points separating the top three outright in both drivers and co-drivers standings, and just two WARC rounds to go, the competition is likely to be fierce.

Competitors will race the clock on six gravel stages, a total of 100.26 competitive kilometres and travel a total distance of 232 kilometres. Clubman Cup distance is just under 65 competitive kilometres, finishing before the evening stages commence for the WARC Outright and 2WD categories.

Leading the WARC and making history doing so is 2WD competitor Tom Wilde and his co-driver Madelin Kirkhouse in their Verandah Apartments sponsored 1993 Honda Civic.

Wilde / Kirkhouse took the lead of the WARC after winning round one, the Trade Hire Kin Kin Rally, the first outright win for a two-wheel drive car since 1994 when multiple WA State Rally Champion Bob Nicoli finished fastest in his Daihatsu Charade.

In round four, Wilde / Kirkhouse won the 2WD category and finished in fourth place outright.

“I do like the Kirup rally, it’s one of my favourites and it’s really fast but technical at the same time,” Wilde said.

“It’ll be flat out for us from the get go as we need to try to keep in front of John [O’Dowd]. He’ll have more power and traction, so we need to be pushing regardless.

“Kirup should reward those who have good notes between driver and co-driver, and I reckon Maddie and I will do well, so I’m feeling pretty confident hanging onto our Championship lead,” the cheese maker from Nannup said.

Hot on his heels is Maximum Motorsport driver John O’Dowd and co-driver Kenneth Sheil, trailing by 30 points and hungry for the win.

“We’re still within striking distance of the title,” Gooseberry Hill resident O’Dowd said. “So it’s really important we do well in this event.”

O’Dowd and Sheil had their best result of the 2017 WARC season at the previous round, the Make Smoking History Experts Cup around Collie in July, where they finished second in their Subaru WRX STI.

Sitting third outright is Maximum Motorsport Brad Markovic and co-driver Toni Feaver who are just two points behind teammates O’Dowd / Sheil and 32 points behind leaders Wilde / Kirkhouse.

Markovic isn’t competing in Kirup. He sustained a back injury at Carringtons Safari two years ago fracturing two vertebrae and had surgery on his back just a few weeks ago.

“The surgery was a success and it feels really good to be pain free, but there’s a while to go before I jump back in the driver’s seat. There is a chance I’ll come back for Carringtons Safari in October, but my focus is on making a full recovery, and I’m planning on coming back even faster next year!” said Markovic, in good spirits.

With 40 points awarded for first, 33 points for second and 30 points for third, the championship is still wide open.

Event Clerk of Course Tony Floyd said that the rally consists of three stages that will be run twice, all with changes from last year’s event.

“We’ve made some changes and made the rally slightly longer. There’s a great mix of roads with a pile of tight technical stages and some fast flowing roads that remind some people of Finland,” Floyd said.

“The stages have held up remarkably well after all the rain we’ve had and we’ve got a couple of cracking easy-to-get-to spectator points where you can get a good look at the cars.”

Follow the signs from the centre of Kirup to find the spectator points, or visit http://www.rallywa.com/rallyevents/kirup-stages/.

Full details of current championship standings can be found via www.rallywa.com/points.

2017 Onslow Contracting Western Australian Rally Championship calendar:

Round 1: 25 March 2017 – Trade Hire Kin Kin Rally, Manjimup
Round 2: 21-23 April 2017 – Quit Forest Rally, Busselton & Nannup
Round 3: 3 June 2017 – MRF Boddington Rally, Boddington
Round 4: 8 July 2017 – Make Smoking History Experts Cup, Collie
Round 5: 9 September 2017 – Wheels on Yirrigan Kumho Tyre Kirup Rally, Kirup
Round 6: 14 October 2017 – Carringtons Safari, Chidlow
Round 7: 11 November 2017, Darling 200, Jarrahdale (2WD and Clubman Cup only)