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Warm, dry and extremely dusty conditions await the Activ RallySport pairing of Justin Dowel and Matt Lee heading into this weekend’s QUIT Forest Rally, the third round of the Australian Rally Championship (ARC).

After finishing a brilliant fourth in last month’s Rally of Canberra, Dowel and Lee are determined to continue their push towards a podium finish, and improve on their current fourth place in the ARC.

“We had a fantastic result in Canberra, and the Activ RallySport Lancer Evo IX went superbly, so we’re hoping to capatilise on that speed heading into this weekend,” driver Justin Dowel said.

After a successful test session on Wednesday, the team head into what is widely regarded as the most difficult event in the championship with plenty of confidence.

“We spent a whole day testing, and concentrated on getting more rear traction out of the car,” Dowel added. “We lowered the ride height at the front and the rear, and made some very promising gains.

By the end of the day we’d improved our speed over the 2km test stage by over six seconds, which was very pleasing.”

Based in the coastal city of Busselton, three hours south of Perth, the QUIT Forest Rally utilises the forest roads around Nannup, 60km south east of the city. Western Australia’s unique gravel roads are coated in tiny ball bearing stones that make them extremely slippery, and makes tyre choice critical.

Rain tends to bind the stones together, providing more grip, however with dry conditions and temperatures around 28 degrees predicted this weekend, that’s a luxury that teams won’t enjoy.

The rally starts tonight with a Super Special Stage on the Bussleton foreshore. The 2.16 kilometre tarmac stage is held twice, and while it isn’t expected to decide the outcome of the rally, Dowel and Lee will be determined to get their event off to a good start.

“The stage is only short, but because it’s on tarmac it requires a different approach,” Dowel said.

“There’s plenty of concrete barriers lining the stage, so we’ll need to drive a clean and tidy line, and ensure that we head into Saturday’s forest stages well placed.”

On Saturday competitors will tackle eight stages covering a competitive distance of 105 kilometres. The longest stage of the day, the 24.4 kilometre ‘Ferndale’ test, will be run twice.
Sunday offers a further eight stages and 112 competitive kilometres, with an event total of 212 kilometres.

“We finished Heat 1 of this event in third place last year, and we see no reason why we can’t push for a similar result this year,” co-driver Matt Lee said. “All the stages will be crucial, but in particular the long Ferndale stage.

“Long stages can often make or break your event, so a good clean run through both those stages will be pivotal to our overall result.”

After the exhausting drive from Melbourne, over the Nullarbor Plain to Western Australia, the Activ RallySport crew have put in long hours ensuring the team’s Lancer Evo IX is in tip-top condition.

The rough and tough event in Canberra showed that reliability is one of the car’s strong points, and on the tricky Western Australian roads, this could be decisive.

“The roads are extremely slippery – probably even more slippery than they were last year,” Lee said.

“When you do your reconnaissance in a road car on radial tyres, it’s quite daunting. But once we get into the rally car, it’ll be a lot better.

“We’ve written new pacenotes for every stage of this event, and although that has created a lot of work leading up to the rally, we will start with really good notes.”

Competition for the QUIT Forest Rally title will be intense. Series leader Simon Evans is expected to set the pace in his rented Lancer Evo IX, with strong challenges to come from Neal Bates and Darren Windus (S2000 Corollas), Eli Evans (Subaru), Glen Raymond (Toyota), and local stars Dean Herridge and Leigh Hynes in Subarus.

“The field is a small, but competitive one,” Dowel stressed. “We’ll need to push hard from the very first stage, but also remember to be very respectful of the slippery surface.

“We’d love to be able to take that podium place that we so nearly achieved in Canberra. We also need to ensure we take a strong points finish to build on our solid start to the championship as well.”

Live results from the QUIT Forest Rally can be found at www.rally.com.au over the weekend. Action photographs of the Activ RallySport team in will be added to www.activrallysport.com.au over the course of the weekend.

ARC Pointscore after two rounds (of six)
1.    Simon Evans / Sue Evans, 151 points
2.    Neal Bates / Coral Taylor, 146
3.    Glen Raymond / Matt Raymond, 104
4.    Justin Dowel / Matt Lee, 86
5.    Eli Evans / Chris Murphy, 60

•    Note: Western Australia is currently three hours behind the east coast. Daylight saving ends on Saturday night, meaning WA will be two hours behind the east coast on Sunday.



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