Justin Dowel and Matt Lee have won the Akademos Rally by a nail-biting five seconds after a thrilling battle in the fourth round of the Victorian Rally Championship on October 17

The Activ RallySport pairing drove their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX to victory, ahead of the Subaru Impreza WRX of Nathan Reeves and Scott Spedding.

It was their second win in the event, following victory in 2007, and second place in 2009.

Reconnaissance for the pacenoted event took place on Saturday, and after an unseasonal Victorian cold snap, competitors battled through thick snow that covered the rally’s stages.

Crews spent just as much time making snowballs as they did making their safety pacenotes, however once the rally got underway on Sunday morning, most of the snow had melted.

Dowel and Lee had a slow start to the event, using medium compound tyres that were two years old. They weren’t ideal in the damp and slippery conditions, with most of their rivals running ‘soft’ compound rubber.

“In the early stages we were able to iron out a few issues with the car, including improving the rear brakes and the suspension rebound settings,” Dowel said.

“After three of the event’s six stages we were in third place and were probably a little bit too relaxed, but after the half-way break we upped the pace.”

The final three stages were repeats of the morning’s three tests, and on the first of these Dowel had a big spin. But by the time they reached stage six the Victorians were really into the groove and set the fastest time by a whopping 37 seconds.

This secured the rally lead, and with all tests complete they transported back to the finish with a satisfying morale boosting victory.

“The event was great practice and we were able to write really good pacenotes,” co-driver Matt Lee said. “Justin drove the car really well in horrible conditions that got worse as the day wore on.

“It was an ideal preparation for the upcoming Rally Victoria, the final round of the Australian Rally Championship, in November.”

Lee says the event will be super fast if the weather is dry, although the team still have some work to do on a wet weather set-up for the Lancer Evo IX, despite the conditions in the Akademos Rally.

While Dowel and Lee took victory in the Akademos, second placegetters Nathan Reeves and Scott Spedding were able to clinch the 2010 Victorian Rally Championship in their Subaru Impreza WRX after a stellar season.

Third place in the Akademos went to the sibling pairing of Stephen and Matt Raymond in an ageing Subaru Legacy RS Turbo.

Final results:

1. Justin Dowel / Matt Lee, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, 1h01m07d
2. Nathan Reeves / Scott Spedding, Subaru WRX STi Spec C, 1:01:12
3. Stephen Raymond / Matt Raymond, Subaru Legacy RS, 1:03:00
4. Warren Lee / David Lethlean, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, 1:03:11
5. Alan Friend / Robin Smalley, Nissan Silvia RS, 1:05:15

Photo by John Doutch

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