Leading Mitsubishi driver, Access Hardware’s Spencer Lowndes, has completed testing ahead of the only tarmac round of the Australian Rally Championship (ARC).

The Tasmanian Tarmac Challenge is being held in Burnie, in north-west Tasmania this weekend, and crews from across the country are busy making the final preparations to their cars ahead of the opening stag on Saturday morning.

“We haven’t made as many changes to the car (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) as we would have liked coming into this round but we were really happy  with the set up out there yesterday,” Lowndes said after he tested the car on Wednesday.

“We had a pretty short turn around to change the car specs from gravel  to tarmac and I hadn’t had the opportunity to do any testing so yesterday was the first time we’d been able to get a proper idea about the set up we have and what we still need to fix ahead of Saturday.”

It will be the first time a tarmac event has been included as a competition round of the ARC and Lowndes is looking forward to the challenge of competing against the nation’s best drivers on a surface that is foreign to most of the field.

“It’s fantastic to be out on tarmac again, it’s such a fun surface, really challenging but very fast. Most of the drivers will be going through a bit of a learning process. We compete over short tarmac stretches of 1-2 kilometres in some events but this is a full event run on tarmac so it’s going to take a lot out of the drivers.”

“You need to be a lot smoother on tarmac, and drive the car a lot straighter, which is not something we do too much of on gravel,” Lowndes laughed.

Lowndes will be one of the few leading ARC drivers to have a solid experience on tarmac.  During a three year hiatus from the ARC he competed in the Tarmac Rally Program for BMW Mini in events such as Targa Tasmania, the Lake Mountain Sprint and the Mt Buller Sprint.

“I think my tarmac experience will definitely help out there, but I’m in a totally different car this time and it’s been a while since I did a full rally away from gravel so I’m still going to be doing it tough out there.”

The ARC didn’t venture down to Tasmania in 2007 so the crews are all excited to be back in the state that boasts some of the best driving roads in the country.

“It’s great for the Championship to have a round back in Tasmania. The old gravel rally in Tassie was always a great event and the locals definitely love their motor sport, but the best thing for us is that the roads are fantastic.”

Lowndes got his first taste of the new roads today when he and co-driver Chris Randell completed a full day of reconnaissance, driving all 178.6 kilometres that will make up the 13 special stages of the event.

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