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After three rounds of the Alphera Dutton Rally Series, last year's champions Martin Notaras and Simon Arthur have a commanding lead - but victory is not yet theirs to claim.

That's because ex-NSW State Rally Champion, David Finnimore, teamed with Sydney banker, Chris Sprangers, have surprised everyone with their performance and they are also in with a shot at the title when the series wraps up in Victoria next month.

However, they have rivals too - Victorians Greg Muller and Dave Pitman, West Australians Matt Cherry and Kim Ledger, and NSW duo David Withers and Richard den Brinker - after a year in which there has been a different team win at each of the first three rounds.

For the 2005 champions, Notaras and Arthur, the year hasn't exactly been smooth sailing. Car issues have plagued them all year, a breakdown which was fixed promptly at the WA round, and gearbox issues which saw them withdraw from the QLD round.

"We need to finish in the top five in Victoria to take the 2006 title," Notaras says.

"Last year we won every round, but it has been much more competitive this year".

Notaras and Arthur also lead the Drivers and Co-Drivers Championships, but will also need a top five finish to take out a clean-sweep of the Team, Driver and Co-Driver Series.

This year has seen teams travel to Perth for round one, to Queanbeyan and Sydney for round two, to Warwick and the Gold Coast for round three, and finally Shepparton for round four, which concludes at Melbourne's Sandown Raceway. By the time this year's series is run and won, teams will have competed on eight different raceways, seven airports and dragways, six different driver training facilities, five hillclimbs, and multiple carparks.

Of course the beauty of the Alphera Dutton Rally Series is that it's a lot of fun and good competition for a minimal budget.

"Our events cater to the individual with a performance car, to use it the way it was intended to be used - flat out on racetracks, airports and training facilities away from public roads," say National Director, Anthony Moss.

"No modification is necessary, only a fire extinguisher and a medical kit, for safety. You can drive any car off any lot from any manufacturer, and come and have a ball with us over three days."

This year has seen 32 different makes entered over the year, surely the most diverse of any rally anywhere in the world. Drivers range from compete amateurs, right through to professional race-car drivers. For full series results and application forms, go to www.duttonrally.com

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