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Activ RallySport’s Justin Dowel and Matt Lee have finished an impressive fourth in Heat 1 of Rally South Australia, the final round of the Australian Rally Championship.

Driving their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, the Victorians had a trouble-free day on the shire and forestry roads in the Barossa Valley, maintaining their fourth place in the championship race.

After plenty of pre-event rain, the wet weather stayed away for Heat 1, but road conditions were still very slippery, particularly on the tight and twisty forest stages around Mt Crawford.

The Sprint Auto Parts Rally South Australia started last night with two tarmac stages around the Angaston sports ground, in the heart of the Barossa Valley wine region.

Dowel and Lee were a solid fourth on both stages, and headed into today’s seven gravel stages with plenty of confidence.

Consistent stage times throughout the day ensured that they maintained their fourth place

“We’ve had a great day where just about everything has gone to plan,” Dowel said at the end of Heat 1. “The car has performed perfectly and we’ve had no problems whatsoever.”

Dowel praised the new Reiger suspension, which the team fitted to the Lancer prior to the event.

“The new suspension is awesome,” Dowel added. “The handling has been dramatically improved, and our tyre wear has also reduced, so it has been a really positive step forward for us.”

Dowel and Lee briefly moved into third place on the penultimate stage of the day, but a fast-finishing Eli Evans pipped them for the final podium place by 1.1 seconds.

“It’s disappointing not to take third, but we can’t be disappointed with how the day’s gone,” co-driver Matt Lee said. “Justin has driven brilliantly today, and we’ve done what we set out to do this morning.”

With one heat still to run, Evans is now just four points behind Dowel in the battle for fourth place in the championship, making tomorrow’s stages even more important for both drivers.

NEWS FROM OUR RIVALS

Heat 1 of Rally South Australia was taken out by two-time champions, Simon and Sue Evans, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX. The husband and wife won every stage of the heat, taking a convincing one minute and 12 second victory.

The Toyota Corollas of Neal Bates and Glen Raymond battled it out for second place - the four-time champion in his Super 2000 Corolla, his young challenger in a Group N (P) car. The pair swapped positions all day, until Bates stopped with alternator problems with just one stage to run, giving second to Raymond.

HEAT 2

The final heat of the 2009 championship begins tonight with another two runs around the tarmac stage in Angaston. A further eight stages and 101 competitive kilometres await competitors tomorrow, before the podium finish at Mt Pleasant tomorrow afternoon.

Sprint Auto Parts Rally South Australia
Heat 1 results

1. Simon Evans / Sue Evans, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, 59m30.5s
2. Glen Raymond / Matt Raymond, Toyota Corolla Sportivo, +1m12.0s
3. Eli Evans / Glen Weston, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +1m42.6s
4. Justin Dowel / Matt Lee, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +1m43.7s
5. Steven Shepheard / John McCarthy, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, +3m51.1s
6. Matt Selley / Claire Ryan, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +4m10.9s
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