With John O’Dowd and Toni Feaver already crowned champions of the 2019 Zestino Tyres CAMS Western Australia Rally Championship (WARC), all eyes are firmly focused on the battle for second.
Leading into the championship’s penultimate round, two crews were locked in second place with Ben Searcy and co-driver Jimmy Marquet sharing the points with Craig Rando and Matthew Scafidi.
Both crews were looking for a big result in the Darling 200, however surprisingly, neither managed to finish the event on the podium – setting up a huge season finale later this year.
Setting the pace from the outset in his first event for 2019 was John Macara alongside co-driver Ross Burton - the five-time WARC champion claimed the first stage in style.
Unfortunately the Mitsubishi Evo 7 pilots sustained an electrical issue after the third stage and were given a late time penalty ahead of the fourth stage, however the duo still managed to post the stage's fastest time to extend their gap over stage two and three winners Steve Oxley and co-driver Michael Wood.
The leaders' luck soon ran out though as they were then forced to retire after their stage win due to a radiator issue, ultimately handing the lead to Oxley and Wood.
Once Oxley and Wood received the lead from their rivals, they maintained it perfectly and steered the CASA Security Subaru Impreza STI to the victory – their first WARC win since July last year.
“The anticipation was high because it was a blind rally and a rally that’s known to be rough, but really, it wasn’t that bad and the roads were very good,” Oxley said.
“It was my first blind rally since 2011, but I’ve done a lot of those before that time. We didn’t have any problems, we didn’t have to push too hard, but decided in the last stage to keep alert and give it some extra, so it was great to finish with a stage win.”
It was a gravel rally debut to remember for Peter Major with the six-time Make Smoking History Targa West claiming outright second place alongside Kim Screaigh in the Totally 4x4 Mitsubishi Evo 7.
Despite being wary of the new surface, it was a brilliant performance from Major who finished 21 seconds ahead of Barry McGuinnes and Stephen Wade in their Subaru Impreza.
"I wasn’t worried about the gravel as such, I guess it’s more of the case of the unknown, not knowing how much grip there is, how late to brake, how much speed to carry in corners, negotiating the rocks and bumps and what happens when you go over them,” Major said.
“The first stage was a blur, but it was so much fun. As we did each stage, I felt less out of control and more in control.”
Searcy and Marquet finished just off the podium in fourth place, securing some valuable championship points, while their rivals squandered their chance and finished the event in 13th after overshooting a corner on the third stage.
Rookie Glenn Alcorn took his first 2WD Drivers Championship victory, picking up a 25 second win over Razvan Vlad, while Anthony Chudleigh and Tim Wright fastest in the Clubman Cup.
The final round of the 2019 Zestino Tyres CAMS Western Australia Rally Championship is the 2019 Make Smoking History Experts Cup in Collie on 26 October.