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Two separate gear selector breakages have hampered the Activ RallySport Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX of Justin Dowel and Matt Lee on day two of Rally Tasmania.

After a brilliant opening day, which entailed just two timed stages, the Victorian pair started day two in fine and sunny conditions, eager to improve on their eighth place.

However, gearbox related failures on the first and fourth stages of the second day slowed their progress, but they somehow managed to finish the day in a creditable ninth place, and still in the points in the first round of the Australian Rally Championship.

Contesting their first ever tarmac rally, Dowel and Lee started the event in conservative fashion, but eighth fastest times on both of the first day’s opening stages gave them plenty of confidence heading into day two.

“We were within one second per kilometre of the leaders, which is where we were hoping to be,” Dowel said. “After watching the in-car video of the first couple of stages, we could see where we were losing time, and hoped to improve our speed as the event wore on.”

The Activ RallySport Lancer certainly didn’t lack for speed on the faster sections, but was dropping time on the tight and twisty roads.

Nevertheless, as their confidence grew, they were certain that their speed would as well.

But the best laid plans don’t always come to fruition. Ten kilometres into the opening stage of day two, the gearbox on the Evo IX let go, and Dowel was forced to struggle out of the stage in fifth gear.

“I just changed up from third gear to fourth gear, and then had nothing,” he said. “It was a real struggle over the final 10 kilometres, and getting back to service, and that cooked the clutch as well.”

The Activ RallySport mechanics went to work, fitting a replacement gearbox and enabling Dowel and Lee to rejoin the event for the afternoon’s final five stages. Sportingly, fellow Lancer driver, Spencer Lowndes, lent the team a spare clutch and flywheel, enabling them to continue in the event.

Fifteen kilometres into the following stage, however, a selector in the replacement gearbox failed as well.

“It was a shocker of a day, but we’re still in ninth place and in the points, so we need to push hard on the final day and hope that we can improve our position even further,” co-driver, Matt Lee, added.

Rally Tasmania continues tomorrow with a further eight stages which make up another 62 competitive kilometres.

2009 Rally Tasmania – results after day two
1. Neal Bates / Coral Taylor, Toyota Corolla S2000, 1h08m05.8s

2. Simon Evans / Sue Evans, Toyota Corolla S2000, +13.5s

3. Eli Evans / Chris Murphy, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +31.0s

4. Brendan Reeves / Rhianon Smyth, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +2:08.1s

5. Glen Raymond / Matt Raymond, Toyota Corolla Sportivo, +2:16.9s

9. Justin Dowel / Matt Lee, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX

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