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Activ RallySport driver, Justin Dowel, has finished the 2009 Australian Rally Championship in fifth place after an impressive display on the final day of Rally South Australia.

Driving his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, Dowel and co-driver, Matt Lee, set top four stage times in all but one of the nine stages, including a career best second outright.

Their performance has also secured them the Australian Rally Championship P5 title, for the second year in succession.

Heat 2 of the Sprint Auto Parts Rally South Australia started last night with two runs over a tarmac Super Special Stage at the Angaston sports ground in the heart of the Barossa Valley.

With driving lights and tarmac tyres fitted to the Lancer Evo IX, the Victorians set the third best time on both runs of the stage, in front of thousands of enthusiastic local spectators.

Heading back onto the gravel this morning, Dowel maintained third place on the 10 kilometre ‘Cromer’ stage, but then dropped to 12th after a heavy landing on the following 12.5 kilometre test.

The Lancer launched off a big jump, but landed nose first and damaged the front of the car on landing.

“It was a massive jump,” Dowel admitted later. “We must have been around five or six feet off the ground, but from that height the landing is going to hurt.

“We damaged the intercooler and the front bumper and guards when we landed. As a result the intercooler pipe was squashed and we lost two minutes getting to the end of the stage.”

A service followed the stage and the Activ RallySport team, under the guidance of Johnny Down, set to work repairing the damage. An impressive effort saw all the repairs completed in the allocated 20 minute service, and Dowel and Lee left the service park with no time penalties.

“It was a fantastic effort by the boys,” Lee said. “Completing the repairs that they did in just 20 minutes is very impressive, and kept us in the rally. Our times after that are testament to their work.”

Undeterred by the heavy landing, Dowel attacked the next stage with gusto, setting the second fastest time - his best in the ARC.  His time on the 10 kilometre stage was just 0.3 of a second slower than stage winner Eli Evans.

That stage time elevated Dowel back into the top 10, and with fourth places on the final four tests, he moved up to ninth place by the end of the day.

However, with Eli Evans taking victory in Heat 2, the Subaru driver moved ahead of Dowel and Lee in the fight for fourth place overall in the championship.

“It would have been great to maintain fourth, but full credit to Eli on a great drive,” Dowel added. “As a team we can take so many positives out of this weekend, and we already have our sights set on the 2010 championship.

“We’ve proven that we have the speed, and we know that there’s more to come. Bring on 2010.”

NEWS FROM OUR RIVALS

After winning the two stages last night, Neal Bates was to take no further part in the rally after his Toyota Corolla refused to start this morning. Eli Evans took full advantage and took a strong Heat victory.

His elder brother, Simon Evans, was second and wrapped up his third Australian Rally Championship title, while Glen Raymond was third to finish as runner-up in the national championship.

Sprint Auto Parts Rally South Australia
Heat 2 results

1. Eli Evans / Glen Weston, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 54m04.6s
2. Simon Evans / Sue Evans, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +11.5s
3. Glen Raymond / Matt Raymond, Toyota Corolla Sportivo +28.1s
4. Steven Shepheard / John McCarthy, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, +1m38.7s
5. Matt Selley / Claire Ryan, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +2m02.5s

9. Justin Dowel / Matt Lee, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +2m41.6s

CAPTION: Justin Dowel and Matt Lee launch their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX during Heat 2 of Rally South Australia today. (Hubble Photographix)
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