John O’Dowd has finished ninth in his first Australian Rally Championship event on the east coast.
The WA driver was 11th overall in Heat One of the opening round of the CAMS ARC, the Eureka Rally around Ballarat. In Heat Two, he climbed to 9th.
“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, who was 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 explained.
“We took things easy on Saturday and then ramped it up on Sunday.”
In Heat Two, 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.”
O’Dowd said he was delighted with the way he and Shiel gelled in car: “Ken went really well. His delivery of the notes was great and it all went without a hitch.”
Unlike other competitors who succumbed to mechanical issues at the Eureka Rally, O’Dowd said his Maximum Motorsport-prepared Subaru WRX STI performed like a dream.
“The car never missed a beat.”
O’Dowd is also making a charge for the 2017 WA Rally Championship and now switches his attention to the Trade Hire Kin Kin Rally next Saturday.
The south-west-based event is the opening round of the WARC and features nine competitive stages.
O’Dowd, who won the WARC’s Group N championship title four years in a row from 2011 to 2014, is after a podium finish.