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The Activ RallySport pairing of Justin Dowel and Matt Lee have finished second outright in the final round of the Victorian Rally Championship, the Akademos Rally, on October 18.

Driving their Lancer Evo IX, they led the event from the first stage and had established a 14 second margin heading into the final 19 kilometre test, only to have a punctured tyre cost them what would have been a well deserved victory.

The fully pacenoted rally covered 120 competitive kilometres over eight stages, and was based in the forests around Alexandra and Thornton.

With their Australian Rally Championship campaign over for the year, Activ RallySport used the event as a valuable test session ahead of next year’s national title race.

Reconnaissance was held on the Saturday, with the rally proper taking place in beautiful weather conditions on Sunday.

From the outset, Dowel was the driver to catch. On the first 21 kilometre stage he beat the fancied Brendan Reeves (Subaru) by 11 seconds, and built on that lead for the majority of the day.

“We obviously came into the event wanting to win, so we put a lot of effort into our pacenotes,” Dowel said. “We did three runs over the stages in recce, and that paid off once the rally began.

“We caught the others napping a little on the first couple of stages, and despite an intermittent diff pump problem, we were able to build a good lead.”

But on the final stage the Lancer ran wide on a corner, hitting a rock and puncturing a right rear tyre. With six kilometres left to go in the stage, Dowel man-handled the car to the finish, but the time loss turned the 14 second lead into an 11 second deficit.

“It’s a shame, but sometimes that’s the way rallying goes,” Dowel added. “While it would have been great to win, it’s good to see Brendan win on his comeback to the sport after his big crash in South Australia in August.”

Co-driver Matt Lee said that the event had proven valuable to the team.

“We had three runs over all the stages in recce, and then two runs in the rally, so we got plenty of driving in.

“Without the pressure of having to score points for a championship we were able to concentrate on improving the car, and we’ve come away very happy,” Lee said.

“Even driving on a flat tyre on the last stage is good training, because there’s no doubt that we’ll have to do it again some time, and probably when the stakes are a lot higher.

“Overall Justin drove really well and the car ran perfectly, so it was a successful event for Activ RallySport.”

Dowel’s competitive outings have finished for 2009, but Lee still has plenty on his plate. He’ll take the wheel of his own 6-cylinder Commodore in the Alpine Rally in early November, before swapping back to the co-driver’s seat to call the pacenotes for Alan Simonsen in Classic Adelaide.

It will be his first ride with Simonsen, a former Rally Tasmania winner. They’ll campaign the Lancer Evo IX that won the 2008 Targa Tasmania with Steve Glenney.

Final results, Akademos Rally

1 Brendan Reeves/Ben Atkinson, Subaru Spec C, 1:12:20
2 Justin Dowel/Matt Lee, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, 1:12:31
3 Nathan Reeves/Scott Spedding, Subaru Impreza STi Spec 
C, 1:13:07
4 Mark Fawcett/Carrie Morris, Subaru WRX STi Spec C, 1:13:23
5 Brenton Kaitler/John Allen, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 
6, 1:14:36
6 Stephen Raymond/Matt Raymond, Subaru Legacy, 1:15:33
7 Warren Lee/David Lethlean, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 2, 1:16:05
8 Derek Reynolds/Ray Baker, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 5, 1:16:35
9 Matt Swan/Paul Franklin, Subaru WRX, 1:16:42
10 Ian Martin/Roslyn Martin, Subaru Impreza WRX STi, 1:18:11

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