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2011 Australian Rally Champion, Justin Dowel, has conceded that he needs to have his former co-driver, Matt Lee, back in the left-hand seat if he’s to be a contender for the 2014 national title.

The pair won the crown at the wheel of their Activ RallySport Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, however Lee hasn’t co-driven since, with work commitments keeping him out of the rally car and in the office.

But having used three different co-drivers in a variety of cars since 2011, Dowel has come to the realisation that he needs Lee beside him if he is to recreate the success from two seasons ago.

“Having had Sue Evans in the car for the past two events, it’s reinforced to me that I need the best co-driver in the car with me, and that’s Matt,” Dowel said.

“Sue Evans is one of the best co-drivers in the business and the added support and detail you get from that experience is essential to being successful.

“Having won a championship together it’s clear that he and I work well together, and I know that Matt is the one who can get the best out of me, and ensure that I can challenge for the ARC again next year.

“Matt just knows where I am falling down and his driving experience gives him a great perspective. So when we write our notes he has as much input as I do to ensure that every corner is perfect, especially in the more technical stages.”

Dowel and Lee won the Victorian Rally Championship together from 2005 to 2007, then took out the Australian Rally Championship P5 title in 2008 and 2009, before securing the outright title in 2011.

It is a partnership that has grown together, and one that Dowel is now appreciating more than ever.

Matt Lee, Activ RallySport“Matt is becoming a driver of some note himself, so that is extremely beneficial in the car and his input is always a positive influence on our results,” Dowel added.

“From my point of view, his preparation, attention to detail and professionalism is second to none, and I need him back in the car.

“To be able to push to the limit and challenge for the Australian Rally Championship takes 100 per cent commitment from driver and co-driver, and I’m confident that we can return to our former heights.”

In 2013, Dowel has contested two events in his Activ RallySport Volkswagen Polo, with four-time champion co-driver, Sue Evans, calling the pacenotes.

Evans will sit beside Dowel for the season’s final event, Rally Victoria in November, but is expected to rejoin her husband, Simon, in next year’s ARC.

That opens up the seat for Matt Lee to reform the championship winning team in 2014.

“Because of his work commitments Matt has been reluctant to get back in the car, but I’m hopeful of him joining me for our first real championship defence.

“It’s still a long shot at this stage, so we will just have to wait and see. Matt is very dedicated to his work, but I keep arguing that there needs to be a balance. But the fact of the matter is, if I am being honest with myself, I think I would struggle to win at that level without him next to me, so I really need him,” Dowel said.

If he does, the 2014 Australian Rally Championship may just have another title contender.

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