Dowel to tackle region’s best in Rally Queensland
- 8th May 2009, 8:53am
Dowel and co-driver, Matt Lee, will start the fourth round of the 2009 Australian Rally Championship in fifth place in the title race, determined to maintain that position as the season moves past the half way mark.
This weekendâ€™s event is also round two of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, and while the APRC crews wonâ€™t be eligible for national championship points, the Victorian duo will be keen to measure their speed against the regionâ€™s best drivers.
The previous ARC round, in Western Australia, started well for the Activ RallySport team with an impressive fourth place in Heat 1, however a roll in Heat 2 badly damaged the teamâ€™s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, putting them out of the event and leaving them with plenty of work to do before the Queensland round.
Because of the severity of the damage to the car, the team purchased an ex-Mitsubishi Ralliart Lancer that has since been fully rebuilt for this weekend.
The car, originally an Evo 8, but now updated to Evo 9 specifications, has a long history. It has been driven by Scott Pedder in ARC rounds, has done Targa Tasmania and the Mount Buller Sprint, and even won the Bathurst 12 Hour race in 2008.
Since taking possession of the new car, team engineer, John Down, has performed â€œmiraclesâ€ on the car, preparing it from scratch in less than two weeks.
â€œJohnny has done an amazing job getting the car ready,â€ Matt Lee says. â€œHeâ€™s done six weeks work in just a week and a half â€“ but I reckon heâ€™s aged about seven years in that time!â€
Downsâ€™ task included replicating the suspension and diff settings from the crashed car, installing the engine management system and tuning the engine, and all the other jobs (both big and small) that are required to get a car ready for rallying.
The car will run in PRC+ trim â€“ basically in standard Group N guise, but with a bigger 34mm turbo restrictor and a slightly more powerful PRC engine.
â€œStraight out of the box the car felt great when we tested in on Wednesday,â€ Dowel said. â€œWe did about 40 kilometres of testing over a 2.5 kilometre track, and everything felt really good.
â€œWe made some small adjustments to the suspension and raised the ride height to suit the Queensland roads, but other than that we didnâ€™t change much at all.â€
After the accident in Western Australia last month, Dowel is determined to get the car to the finish of this weekendâ€™s rally without any scratches on it.
â€œThereâ€™s no doubt we were a bit apprehensive in testing after coming off a big crash, but we need to ensure we get our minds on the job quickly this weekend and maintain our fifth place in the championship.
â€œOur first goal is to get the car to the finish in one piece, but hopefully as the event progresses we can increase our speed and get a good result.
â€œIf all goes to plan we hope that fourth or fifth in the ARC field is a strong possibility,â€ Dowel added.
Both Dowel and Lee have watched their in-car footage from last yearâ€™s event in the lead up to this weekend, and after Thursdayâ€™s reconnaissance, believe they are in good shape for the rally.
â€œWe watched all the stages from last year and the notes from 2008 gave us a great base to start with,â€ Lee said.
â€œHowever our pacenoting system has evolved a lot in the past 12 months, and the further improvements that we made during yesterdayâ€™s recce has improved the notes even further.
â€œWeâ€™re confident that weâ€™re going into Rally Queensland in the best possible shape.â€
Rally Queensland gets underway with a ceremonial start at the Nambour Showgrounds on Friday evening, with the action getting underway on Saturday morning in the forests around Imbil.
Day one of the rally involves seven stages totaling 113.77km competitive, while on Sunday a further seven stages and 114km of competitive driving awaits competitors.
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