Activ RallySport’s Justin Dowel and Matt Lee are brimming with confidence heading into this weekend’s Rally of South Australia, the third round of the 2011 Bosch Australian Rally Championship.

Currently lying third in the five-round championship, Dowel and Lee recently completed a successful test session north west of Melbourne, testing a new sequential gearbox that they will debut in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX this weekend.

“We did 110 kilometres at competitive speeds and the car felt awesome,” Dowel said.

“The new Holinger gearbox has absolutely transformed the car – it has so much more acceleration. It’s an absolute rocket.”

The Activ RallySport team are currently third in the national championship, just 30 points from the lead. At the last round in Queensland, persistent engine problems cost them valuable time, and while they won the first heat, they were relegated to second place in heat two.

“When the car returned to the workshop we discovered that we had a broken valve spring, and that the launch control wasn’t working properly, so it’s easy to see why the performance was down,” Dowel added.

“But we’ve fixed all that now, and after the test session we head into this weekend’s rally with the car going better than it ever has.”

Dowel will start the event second on the road, behind championship leader Ryan Smart in a Toyota. It is the first time that he’s started behind Smart this year, and while road sweeping won’t really be an issue in South Australia, running second could give the Victorian a psychological advantage.

“I don’t mind running first on the road, but having said that, it’s nice to have someone ahead of you, rather than us being the pioneers on the stages.”

Weather conditions this weekend look like being changeable, with some rain forecast, but according to co-driver, Matt Lee, that shouldn’t affect the condition of the 15 special stages too much.

“No driver likes really wet weather, but you can attack the South Australian roads in the wet and they are consistent in their grip level,” he explained.

“The roads are more abrasive and faster than those on which we tested on, but as there is a classic rally running ahead of the ARC field, there should be no disadvantage in running first or second on the road.

“The South Australian stages are primarily on shire roads, and the others in the Mt Crawford forest are typical pine forest roads, which tend to chop up as more cars run over them.”

Lee admits that the plan is to take a long overdue victory in South Australia, but Dowel is a little more circumspect.

“I’ve got no real expectations, other than to drive fast and get to the finish,” he admits.

“The team have done the work, we’ve developed the car even further and I’ve been in the gym for the past 15 days to ensure that I’m fit and ready for the rally to start on Saturday morning.

“Hopefully the results reflect the hard work we’ve put in.”

The 2011 Rally of South Australia begins on Saturday morning with the first heat entailing eight stages over a competitive distance of 107.39km.

Heat two, on Sunday, will see competitors contest another seven special stages over 100.19km  in the Adelaide Hills, before the podium finish on Sunday afternoon.

The longest stage of the rally is the 32.02km Tweeden test, which will be the first stage run on Saturday, and the last stage on Sunday afternoon.

Along with Ryan Smart in his Toyota Corolla, Dowel’s opposition is expected to come from the Mitsubishi Lancers of Mark Pedder (Evo IX) and Steve Shepheard (Evo X), and Eli Evans in his factory-backed Honda Civic.

For live results during the Rally of South Australia, visit

Current ARC pointscore after Round 2 of 5

1. Ryan Smart (Toyota) 157
2. Mark Pedder (Mitsubishi) 134
3. Justin Dowel (Mitsubishi) 127
4. Simon Knowles (Toyota) 68
5. Steve Shepheard (Mitsubishi) 60

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