Targa South West to welcome the Skoda

Thursday 09 May, 2019
Photos: CMR Photographic and Aaron Wishart

An impressive field of 36 crews will put on a show in the picturesque towns of Pemberton, Manjimup and Northcliffe when the Make Smoking History Targa South West takes place later this month. 

As competitors race against the clock on 22 closed-road Special Stages tackling more than 130 competitive kilometres, all eyes will be on John O’Dowd and his Skoda Fabia R5.

For the first time in Australian history, the world-class car will be competing in a tarmac rally, making its arrival even more exciting. 

The reigning CAMS Western Australian Rally Champion got his first run in the R5 at last month’s CAMS Australian Rally Championship opening round – finishing in the top five at Make Smoking History Forest Rally.

With the car modified to comply with the event’s regulations and World Rally Championship co-driver Glenn Macneall sitting beside O’Dowd, the Gooseberry Hill resident is hoping for a strong performance. 

“The R5 in one word: Awesome and it’s a great fun car to drive,” O’Dowd said.

“Obviously, it’s purpose built for gravel rallying, so we’ve had to make some changes - wheels, tyres, suspension along with some other modifications to suit tarmac conditions.

“Glenn must be scraping the bottom of the barrel to be sitting next to me. He’s a wealth of knowledge and I’ll be taking advantage of that and using it as an opportunity to learn while my usual co-driver is off mountain-biking.

“I’m not sure how we’ll go, but Targa South West is the perfect practice run for the bigger four-day Targa West in August.

“We do a lot of gravel rallying in the region and it’s a beautiful part of the world, I’m looking forward to going back.”

With O’Dowd and Macneall headlining the entry list ahead of the three-day event, Targa South West Event Director Ross Tapper believed there is a good mix of talent within the 36 crews. 

“There’s a great mix of veterans along with some rookies, and a good field of modern and classic cars. There’s a 1965 Mustang, Porsche Cayman, Subaru WRX, Lancer Evo, Nissan GTR, a couple of Toranas from the 1970s, classic Porsche 911s, and a Tesla Roadster, an electric car,” Tapper explained. 

“The essence of motor sport is competition, but what sets rallying apart from other codes of motorsport is the camaraderie and sense of community - a group of like-minded car enthusiasts sharing a common experience – a spirited drive in some of the State’s most picturesque areas.”

Current Competition Modern category winner Mark Greenham will be defending his title alongside Stephanie Esterbauer in the Race Torque Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, while 2017 champion Will White and Bernie Webb will also be wanting a strong result.  

Other crews looking to make an impact are Targa Tasmania competitors Mark Cates and Declan Stafford, Al Blakers and Wayne Deighton and electric car pilots Jurgen and Helen Lunsmann. 

The 10th Make Smoking History Targa South West takes place on 17-19 May and will kick off at the Pemberton Sports Club before moving through Manjimup and Northcliffe.