After starting the Bosch Australian Rally Championship with a pair of third placings in Western Australia, Justin Dowel and the Activ RallySport team are aiming for victory in this weekend’s International Rally of Queensland.

Dowel and co-driver, Matt Lee, completed a successful test session in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX on Wednesday, and will enter this weekend’s event cautiously optimistic.

The Victorian pair finished second in Heat 1 of Rally Queensland last year, but were forced to retire from Heat 2 with gearbox failure. However, the addition of a new Hollinger gearbox for this event has Dowel brimming with confidence.

“We had a fantastic test. The new 5-speed Hollinger ‘dog’ box is unbelievable and I can’t wait for the rally to begin,” Dowel said.

“I’m now able to change gear without the clutch and it has given me a lot more confidence driving the car.

“Hollinger build the best gearboxes in the country, and I’m very happy to be involved with them. We plan to have a new sequential gearbox ready for Rally South Australia, which should make the car even quicker again.”

Led by team manager John Down, the Activ RallySport team have spent the time between the WA and Queensland rounds of the championship fine-tuning the Lancer, which for this year runs without a turbo restrictor for the first time.

“The new engine tune we have for this event is amazing,” Dowel added. “It’s given us much more power low down in the rev range and has really transformed the car.

“Compared to the car we were driving last year, it’s like chalk and cheese.”

Dowel and Lee completed an untroubled 55 kilometres of testing on tight and tricky roads on the Sunshine Coast. Half the test stage was wet and slippery, with the other half dry and fast, which Dowel says is a good indication of what the event holds in store.

In Western Australia he was disadvantaged by running as the first car on the slippery gravel stages, but in Queensland he’ll have 19 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship cars ahead of him to sweep the stages.

“Our plan is to win the event, but we’re well aware that after his win in WA, Ryan Smart will be very hard to beat on home soil.

“We know Ryan will be fast, as will the Lancers of Mark Pedder and Steve Shepheard, so it will be hard to predict a winner. A spin or a flat tyre could be the difference between winning and finishing third or fourth.”

The Rally of Queensland stages are traditionally narrow, tight and twisty, with large amounts of horsepower not being the factor it is on some rallies.

“With the new engine tune we expect our car to be a lot faster than it was in WA,” Dowel added. “With the power coming on from around 3000 revs it’s a lot more drivable than it was, and that should make a big difference on the Queensland stages.

“I really am looking forward to the event. The car is better than it has ever been, and with the new gearbox I have confidence that I can push hard from the very first stage. Bring it on!”

Rally Queensland gets under way with two 2.26km spectator stages on Friday night, before a further eight stages make up Heat 1 on Saturday. Competitors will traverse the long 27km ‘Derrier’ stage twice, with a total competitive distance of 119km.

Heat 2 starts on Saturday night with a further two passes of the Caloundra stage, before seven stages on Sunday, the longest being the rally’s final stage, ‘Big Derrier’, at over 34km in length.

Current ARC pointscore after Round 1 of 5

1. Ryan Smart (Toyota) 81
2. Mark Pedder (Mitsubishi) 68
3. Justin Dowel (Mitsubishi) 60
4. Tom Wilde (Subaru) 48
5. Derek Reynolds (Mitsubishi) 40

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