Melbourne driver Justin Dowel returns to the Australian Rally Championship this weekend with an entry in the Rally of South Australia.

After missing the last round of the championship, Dowel and co-driver, Matt Lee, will hit the fast and flowing stages in their Activ RallySport Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9, intent on a podium finish.

Based in the Barossa Valley, north of the state’s capital, the Rally of South Australia is one of the most anticipated rounds of the year, with the biggest spectator numbers of the season expected.

Dowel and Lee started the 2010 season in brilliant fashion, finishing third in the opening tarmac round in Tasmania in February. When the series moved on to the gravel in Western Australia they set their first ever fastest stage time, only to have their event hampered by mechanical problems.

They then missed the third round in New South Wales as the team concentrated on further development of the Lancer Evo 9, culminating in a successful test session last week.

“It was very disappointing to miss the Coffs Harbour round last month, but we have made some positive developments with the car and we’re all really looking forward to South Australia,” Dowel said.

“We did 150 kilometres during our test session last week, concentrating mainly on suspension set-up, and testing a new gearbox.”

While the new gearbox won’t be used in South Australia, Dowel was very happy with the results of the test, and believes that they have a solid set-up ahead of the event’s 17 stages and 215 kilometres of competitive rallying.

“Having missed a round, our chances of a top three finish in the overall championship are gone,” Dowel added, “but we’re determined to set some fast stage times this weekend and push hard for a podium finish.

“We proved in Western Australia that we have the speed, and as this will be the fourth time we’ve done Rally SA, we have a great set of pacenotes and should be able to push hard for more stage wins.”

Co-driver Matt Lee agrees, adding that this year’s route is very similar to the 2009 rally.

“South Australia is Lancer Evolution country, as the fast and flowing roads suit the higher top speed of the Mitsubishi,” Lee said. “Hopefully that means we’ll have an advantage over the Subarus, which tend to be faster over the tight and twisty stages.

“But having said that, we know it won’t be easy. There’s some great drivers in the ARC this year, but the 150 kilometres that Justin had behind the wheel last week will be invaluable once the first stage gets under way.

“I’ve been reviewing last year’s in-car video and making some enhancements to our notes, so that once reconnaissance starts on Thursday we should be ready and raring to go.”

Dowel and Lee have more experience of Rally SA than of any other event in the championship, which should prove to be advantageous over the weekend.

Rally South Australia begins with two tarmac super special stages around the Angaston Showgrounds on Friday night, before six forest stages on Saturday – the longest of which is the 34 kilometre Tweeden test.

Tarmac action begins Heat 2 at Angaston on Saturday evening, with a further seven stages on Sunday to complete the event.

For further information on Activ RallySport, and to watch spectacular in-car footage from last year’s Rally South Australia, visit the team’s website at
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