Leading Mitsubishi driver Access Hardware’s Spencer Lowndes has completed a successful preparation for this weekend’s National Rally of Canberra, round two of the Australian Rally Championship.

With significant upgrades made to his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX since the opening round of the Championship last month, Lowndes was on the pace at the Rally of Canberra Shakedown, setting the fifth fastest stage time.

Lowndes, who made the final touches to his set up after testing on Wednesday and got a first look at the gravel stages yesterday, is excited about the car’s potential this weekend.

“We implemented some changes to the set up of our suspension during the test and I’m hoping they will bring us some extra traction during the event,” said Lowndes. “The road conditions in Canberra are very different to those in WA so we took the opportunity to look at our set up and see where we could improve.”

Lowndes finished third outright in the Capital Rally of Canberra in 2007, an outstanding achievement considering he was returning from a three year break from competition.

“We had a great event last year. We were setting second fastest times behind Simon (Evans) for much of the rally and this year the car should be even quicker, so I’m really looking forward to getting out there on the stages again,” he added.

“If everything works well out there, a podium finish is a very realistic possibility.  I am more confident in the car this year and the set up changes should result in an increase in pace which will put us in a good position to be challenging for the lead.”

“I really enjoy the roads in Kowen, they are fast, open and great to drive, and when you combine them with the winding, technical roads that make up the rest of the rally, the event is a great challenge.”

After running on Michelin’s at the previous round, Lowndes has made the switch back to the more familiar Pirelli tyre that he used when competing with the Ralliart Factory team.

“I know the Pirelli tyre a lot better and have more experience with the changes we can make to get added traction, which will be important if we get rain over the weekend. We ran on the tyres in testing and they suited the roads."

The Rally of Canberra gets underway at the Ceremonial Start tonight in Canberra’s city centre with the gravel stages kicking off tomorrow morning.

Teams will complete 18 gravel stages, totalling over 220 competitive kilometres.

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