Activ RallySport driver Justin Dowel has dominated the opening day of the Rally of South Australia, winning by the comfortable margin of 42.3 seconds.

Dowel and co-driver, Matt Lee, set up their victory with a staggering time on the opening 32 kilometre stage. They were an incredible 17.5 seconds faster than their closest rival, current championship leader Ryan Smart.

In what they have described as a ‘text book’ day, Dowel and Lee’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX ran faultlessly through the day’s eight special stages, in which they took the fastest time on six of them.

Dowel started the day with the plan to push hard from the outset and try to establish a lead, which he managed to do emphatically on the first stage. After that it was a case of consolidating his advantage and keeping his rivals at bay.

“It’s been an incredible day, and we’re excited to have taken the win,” Dowel said.

“It rained heavily overnight and the stages were really slippery in parts, but the weather fined up once the rally got underway this morning and the stages started to dry out, so it was ideal for rallying.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the new Holinger sequential gearbox that we are using for the first time in this event. It has simply transformed the car and has obviously given us a real edge over our competitors.

“Once we established a big lead on the first two stages of the day, I just concentrated on driving as smoothly as I could.  We’ve finally got a car that is capable of winning a rally, and it’s a great feeling."

Mark Pedder took second place for the day, while championship leader, Ryan Smart, retired his Toyota Corolla on the very last stage of the day with a broken differential, moving Dowel closer to the championship lead.

Day two of the Rally of South Australia will see competitors tackle a further seven gravel stages in the Barossa Valley. The longest stage of the day is the last, the 32 kilometre ‘Tweeden’ test, in which Dowel set up his winning advantage in Heat 1.

Dowel and Lee are confident of standing on the top step of the podium when the  champagne is sprayed at around 5.30pm tomorrow afternoon.

For live results during the Rally of South Australia, visit

2011 Rally of South Australia – Heat 1 results

1. Justin Dowel / Matt Lee, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, 1h01m26.0s
2. Mark Pedder / Leigh Tierney, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +42.3s
3. Steve Shepheard / John McCarthy, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, +1m27.5s
4. Michael Boaden / Helen Cheers, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +1m38.8s
5. Eli Evans / Glen Weston, Honda Civic Type R, +2m52.9s

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