With just three rounds remaining for the year, the Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship (WARC) title fight will reach new heights this weekend at the WA Car Club Karri Rally.
Four drivers are currently in the running for the title with Ben Searcy leading the way on 238 points just 38 points ahead of John O’Dowd, while Jack Flanagan (184) and Craig Rando (170) are also in contention.
All four drivers will be lining up on Saturday for the championship’s fourth round of the season and form part of a huge 36-car entry list.
Taking place around Manjimup and Nyamup, crews will be tackling 96 competitive kilometres across six stages – some of which will be completely new for competitors.
Click here to view the full entry list.
Having been so close to securing a title in the past few years but falling just short, Searcy could still finish the round in first place should he not win the rally or finish just behind the Truck Wholesale WA Skoda Fabia of O'Dowd.
In what is his best position for a title charge in some time, the 44-year-old says his strong season is due to consistency.
“We’ve come second in all the rounds, so consistency is paying us well and it shows you have to be there, turn up and finish every stage and every rally,” Searcy said.
“We’ll make sure we keep finishing rallies and putting in the good work to keep our championship lead.
“The car is good, we had a few little set up issues the last rally which made the car hard to handle, but once we adjusted the front dampers, we won three of the four stages. My strategy for the Karri Rally is to win it.”
O’Dowd on the other hand would be hoping for a victory sooner rather than later in the hopes that he closes the gap to his rival.
“We’ll give it a shot, we want to do the best we can, and we need all the practice we can so we can compete in the RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship sometime, when we can get there,” O’Dowd added.
“Searcy’s done well this season, along with Flanagan and Rando, so we’ll have to see how it all ends up.
“The pressure is on Searcy now to maintain the championship lead, but we’re going to do our best to win.”
With all eyes on the front two, Clerk of Course Neil Threthowen says that the new stages at Karri Rally could prove quite challenging for anyone unprepared.
“We’re using some new roads this year which are far more twisty than previous years and will slow the speeds but make it more technical,” Threthowen explained.
“There are still a few open road sections where speed will matter and other sections where drivers will need to exercise caution and avoid the temptation to over-extend themselves or their cars.
“There’s one large pool of water that will take some skill to get through that’s likely to catch the unweary - fortune will favour the brave.”
Unfortunately, the rally has no spectator points, but rally fans can catch up with crews in between stages during service breaks at Manjimup Oval.
Click here to view the full schedule.
There will also be an opportunity for fans to see the cars up close with the post-event function at Tall Timbers in the heart of Manjimup.
The WA Car Club Karri Rally in Manjimup, Nyamup and surrounds on 21 August.