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The Activ RallySport pairing of Justin Dowel and Matt Lee are gearing up for the final round of this year’s Australian Rally Championship, the Rally of South Australia, this weekend.

Driving their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, the Victorian duo are determined to preserve their fourth place in this year’s title race, but know that it won’t be easy against a host of the country’s best rally stars.

Following the wash out of the previous round of the championship in Coffs Harbour, the Sprint Auto Parts Rally South Australia becomes even more important to Activ RallySport’s championship aspirations.

Heading into the final round, Dowel and Lee are in fourth place, just eight points clear of the Subaru driver, Eli Evans. Evans has been consistently faster than Dowel all season, but following a successful test on Wednesday, Dowel is quietly confident of maintaining his  advantage.

“We’re well aware that Eli has the speed to win the rally, so we need to ensure that we don’t get into a battle with him simply on stage times,” Dowel said. “However we need to ensure we lift our pace to his level while maintaining a game plan of finishing both Heats as high up the leaderboard as we can.

“Nevertheless, we believe that we have a fast car for the fast South Australian stages and we have our eyes on a podium finish.”

A recent test session saw the team make big gains in their suspension development, which should give the car more drive out of corners. A general softening of the suspension package and a change to progressive rate springs saw them achieve some big times gains during the test.

The Lancer Evo 9’s engine has been freshened up heading into the final round, and is producing more power than at any other stage this year, giving the team a real confidence boost ahead of the two-day, 19 stage event.

Co-driver, Matt Lee, believes that good pacenotes will be vital to their chances this weekend.

“Nearly all the stages are the same as in 2008, so we have a fantastic set of notes to start with,” Lee said. “That makes a huge difference and should mean that the lead up to the event is less stressful.

“As Justin said, we have a quick car and we think we have a realistic chance of a podium place.”

The rally has attracted a classy field of 58 entries, with the battle for the title of Australian Rally Champion set to go down to the wire. Two-time winner, Simon Evans, currently leads the series in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, eight points clear of his former team-mate,  
Neal Bates.

Bates won the ARC in 2008, and will be hoping for back-to-back victories in his Toyota Corolla S2000.

The Sprint Auto Parts Rally South Australia begins on Friday with an all-new Pedders ‘No Bull’ top 10 shoot-out at the pre-event shakedown. The top 10 crews will battle it out over a three-kilometre stage, with the fastest driver claiming a bonus 10 championship points, the second quickest nine points, and so on.

The rally’s stages, some of the most popular in the championship, will be held around the Mt Crawford Forest in the Barossa Valley, with huge crowds of spectators expected, despite the forecast of wet weather. The event’s longest stage, the 20.82 kilometre ‘Eden High’, is also the longest, adding a real sting in the tail to the event.

Australian Rally Championship pointscore
After Round 4 (of 5)
1. Simon Evans / Sue Evans            267
2. Neal Bates / Coral Taylor              259
3. Glen Raymond / Matt Raymond   242
4. Justin Dowel / Matt Lee                150
5. Eli Evans / Chris Murphy              142

Photos: Hubble Photographix

Visit the Activ RallySport website at: www.activrallysport.com.au

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