By STEVE ARCHBOLD
FOR many years the sport of rally driving was considered to be strictly for the boys, but things are changing.
Coffs Harbour's Jo O'Dell loves driving rally cars fast and to sit in the passenger seat with her as she charges along a dirt road is a real adrenalin rush.
Watching Jo go through her paces in a Datsun 1600 was like seeing a wrestler grab their opponent by the scruff of the neck and throw them around the ring like a rag doll as the car writhed and rocked through the corners.
At the age of 29, Jo wants to compete in as many rallies as she can and ultimately her dream is to drive in a world rally championship round.
Fellow Coffs Harbour Sporting Car Club member Bruce McDougall is impressed about what he has seen from this rally tyro.
"For someone who hasn't had a great deal of experience, this girl can really drive, she seems to be a real natural," McDougall said.
A navigating role was Jo's introduction to rallying.
This was the ideal place for a first-hand look at what went on behind the wheel of a rally car but she wanted to take the extra step.
Jo made her driving debut at Wauchope in April and she followed that effort with an excellent fifth outright at the recent Coffs Harbour Sprintmaster Rally making a lot of the male drivers sit up and take notice.
"It's much better being able to drive the car rather than just sitting there as a passenger calling out instructions to the driver," Jo said.
"I don't know why I love driving so much, it's just great fun, especially when I can go out there and beat some of the boys."
As a mad rally enthusiast, Jo eagerly follows the progress of Coffs Harbour's Mal Keogh as he bids for another State rally title.
"If I'm not driving, the next best thing is to be there to watch the best drivers in action, it's a buzz," she said.
As Emma Gilmour flies the flag for female rally drivers in New Zealand, Jo is keen to make a name for herself in Australia, the way she is driving that won't take long.