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Activ RallySport driver Justin Dowel has started his 2011 Bosch Australian Rally Championship campaign in fine style, taking a pair of third places in the first round, held in Western Australia.

Driving his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, the Victorian and co-driver, Matt Lee, were determined to start their season in consistent fashion in an event that hasn't been kind to them in the past.

Starting both Heats of the event as the first car on the slippery gravel stages to the south of Perth, Dowel and Lee set three fastest stage times over the weekend, highlighting their speed and their potential for the remainder of the championship.

"After we broke our good gearbox at the pre-event shakedown, we had to use our spare for the rally, which meant that if that broke that we were out of the rally," Dowel said.

"It meant that we couldn't attack for the lead like we would perhaps have liked to, but securing two third places is a great way to start the year, and Matt and I are rapt with the result."

The event was one by Queenslander Ryan Smart in a Toyota, with fellow Victorian Mark Pedder second in a Mitsubishi.

"The team have done a great job getting the car ready for the season and it ran like clockwork," Dowel added.

"Over the 20 stages of the event we were in the top three on all but three of those stages, so that proves that we should have the speed to challenge for victories in the remaining four rounds of the championship."

As expected, Dowel struggled most on the day's longest stage, the 19km Brockman test. Sweeping the roads for his rivals on the first run through the stage cost him valuable time, yet on the second pass, he managed to lower his time by an incredible 30 seconds.

"For sure, the loose gravel on the stages put us at a disadvantage as the first car on the road, but that's just something we had to put up with.

"As our pre-event plan dictated, we just needed to make sure we drove neatly, and Matt and I really combined well in the car and have come away with a great result."

The next round of the Australian Rally Championship is Rally of Queensland, from May 13 to 15.

Quit Forest Rally, Heat 2
1. R. Smart / J. Allen, Toyota Corolla Sportivo, 1h06m19.7s
2. M. Pedder / L. Tierney, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +29.1s
3. J. Dowel / M. Lee, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +32.0s
4. A. Stone / H. Drury, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +2m05.5s
5. T. Wilde / N. Wilde, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +2m36.1s


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