Dylan King’s long-awaited return to the Dunlop Tyres Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship (WARC) has been a resounding success with victory in the Morley Tyre Centre Safari Rally.
Twenty-five strong crews were entered in the nine-stage event in Mundaring and Sawyer’s Valley, but it was King and co-driver Lee Tierney who secured a 28-second victory over John O’Dowd and Toni Feaver.
Having spent the previous two years out of the game building and developing his new Subaru WRX, the weekend was the first opportunity for the 2016 WA Championship to test it out as a completed package.
Heading into the round with little expectation, King and Tierney didn’t need time to settle as they won the opening two stages, before O’Dowd got his first win on the third stage.
King bounced back to take back the lead on the fourth stage before RSEA Safety Motorsport Australia Rally Championship (ARC) junior Max McRae picked up his first career stage win.
McRae made it two in a row on the event’s sixth stage, while King built his lead to 13 and half seconds ahead of the final third of the event.
A huge SS7 saw King and Tierney post the biggest stage win for the event with an impressive 13-second victory over O’Dowd, stretching the gap out to 26.6 seconds ahead of the penultimate stage.
A fifth stage win for the day on SS8 all but confirmed the win as O’Dowd’s final stage win proved to be a consolation as the Skoda Fabia R5 pilot secured a runner-up placing.
Turning 28 the day after the rally, King celebrated his birthday in style and admitted the car’s performance exceeded his own expectations.
“We weren’t expecting to be in the top five, so to come away with the outright victory in this brand-new car was awesome,” King said.
“It was pretty tight at the start and we had some issues with our rear brakes, so we decided to conserve the car for the last six stages as it was more important to finish than to win.
“We kept checking the stage times and realised that we had the edge over John (O’Dowd) - it’s pretty exciting to beat a car like that under the circumstances.
“Our car was on point apart from the brake issues and the MRF tyres ran faultlessly, so it was a really good day.
“We’re unsure about what we’re doing next. The plan is to do the full WARC in 2022 and use the remaining 2021 rounds as a shakedown – a win like this definitely gives us the confidence we’re heading in the right direction for another championship.”
Despite not taking out the win, it was still a strong outing for O’Dowd as his WARC title rival Ben Searcy had a DNF and scored no points, which has blown the championship and put O'Dowd back in front with two rounds to go.
Rounding out the podium behind King and O’Dowd were Craig Rando and Stephen Wade, who pipped McRae on the final stage to claim third by just six seconds.
After a sluggish start, Rando and Wade fell down the order after the opening two stages but slowly worked their way up the standings as the day went on.
Trailing the Peugeot of McRae and his co-driver Bill Hayes by more than one and half minutes at the time of the final service break, Rando steered his Subaru Impreza to three consecutive top three times, while McRae suffered with power steering problems on the final loop and couldn’t hold on.
In the WA 2WD Championship, Glenn Alcorn and Jonathan Charlesson steered their Ford Escort RS to a thrilling six second win over Mark Travers and Jeremy Edwards.
Click here to view results.
The Dunlop Tyres Motorsport Australia WA Rally Championship continues this month with the Make Smoking History Experts Cup Collie taking place around the forests surrounding Wellington Dam in Collie on 30 October.