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Buoyed by his two second placings in last month’s Rally Queensland, Pirtek Les Walkden Rallying driver, Michael Guest, has set his sights high leading into this weekend’s Sprint Auto Parts Rally South Australia.

Rally SA is the fourth round of the 2008 Australian Rally Championship, and will be held in the Barossa Valley, situated in the Adelaide hills.

Driving their Subaru Impreza WRX STI, Guest and co-driver, David Green, had their best result for the season at the last round, and with a better starting position this weekend, they’re confident of repeating that result.

“We were really happy with the set-up of the Pirtek LWR Subaru in Queensland, so we won’t play around with it too much leading into this event,” Guest said this week.

“We may run the car a little bit lower than in was in Queensland, but I’m confident the car will be fast out of the blocks.”

The Subaru was fitted with a new engine for the last round, and that, combined with Guest getting more and more familiar with the Group N Impreza, enabled him to show just what he and the car are capable of.

At last year’s Rally South Australia Guest, who was driving a Ford, and was plagued by problems. But he showed the speed that will make him a challenger this weekend. In 2007 he was able to set a number of top three stage times, and he predicts that a number of new stages for this year’s rally will hopefully give him the chance to shine.

“I generally do well on new stages – stages that drivers who have been competing in the ARC for the last few years don’t have knowledge of,” he said. “And for this event we’ll start as the fourth car on the road, which is just about ideal.

“Our main rivals – Simon Evans, Neal Bates and Eli Evans – will all start in front of us, and that’s a big positive as we can monitor their stage times throughout the rally.

“And with those guys sweeping the loose gravel off the roads - particularly the shire road stages – our starting position should be just about perfect.”

Traditionally, Rally South Australia is one of the most popular events on the ARC calendar. With smooth, fast conditions, Guest rates the roads as the best in the championship, and can’t wait to start the rally this Friday night.

“I’d love it to pour rain, as I usually do well in the wet, but the roads are so good at this event that it doesn’t really matter what the conditions are like,” Guest added.

With the car now to his liking, Guest will push hard as he tries to move further up the ARC leaderboard. He currently sits in fourth place in the championship, and a good result in South Australia should see him move into a podium place.

“I changed my driving style in Queensland and I think that really helped to get more speed out of the Subaru. I had a test in the car in Tasmania last week and I’m really happy with how things are going. I can’t wait for the rally to get under way.”

For 2008, competitors will face 20 special stages covering a distance of nearly 220km. The rally starts on Friday night with two tarmac spectator stages around the Angaston sports ground. Although only 1.46km in length, Guest knows that the stages can prove vital, as was the case last year when Steve Glenney lost victory after a small driving error cost him vital seconds.

“It’s only a short stage, but it’s pretty tricky, and with thousands of spectators on hand to watch, it’s important that we do a good job and give Pirtek and LWR some great exposure.”

Heat One continues on Saturday with a further eight stages using the fast and undulating shire roads, and sections of the Mt Crawford forest.

Saturday night sees the second heat start with a further two stages around the Angaston sports ground, before competitors tackle eight stages on Sunday. The highlight of Sunday’s tests will be the 21km Eden High stage, which is arguably the most popular in the Australian Rally Championship.
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