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Activ RallySport driver, Justin Dowel, is already looking ahead to the 2013 Australian Rally Championship (ARC) after debuting the team's new Volkswagen Polo in last weekend's Rally Victoria.

The reigning Australian Rally Champion sat out most of this season because of business commitments, but returned to the fray in his home event to gain valuable experience of the new front-wheel drive car.

With regular co-driver, Matt Lee, also driving in the event, Dowel was joined by the experienced Scott Spedding, and was hoping for a top five finish. He achieved that with fourth place in Heat 2 of the event, after breaking two driveshafts on the opening day, and one on the second.

“It has been a real learning curve this weekend, but to come away with fourth place in the second heat bodes well for the future,” Dowel said.

“The first day wasn’t such a good one, as we broke a driveshaft just 1.3km into the first stage. This put the car into a huge spin at about 140km/h and really scared me as I had no control over the steering at all.

“My 4WD experience told me to keep the foot planted to pull the car straight, but this made it worse. After speaking with Eli (Evans) he advised me to just ease off the throttle and that will settle the car.

“We managed to get the car back to service and completed the last few stages of the first day, but I’d lost my nerve a little by then as I felt it was like playing Russian Roulette waiting for the shaft to break again, and I didn’t drive well.”

With the car fully repaired for Heat 2, Dowel and Spedding continued the learning curve to set competitive times over the day’s nine stages, including a confidence-inspiring second quickest on the 12km Bunyip stage.

“We had a much better day today,” Dowel said after the event.

“We had a few scary moments, but we got through without hitting anything and we set some top three times by the end of the day.

“Scott did an awesome job, as did Spike and the boys in the service crew. Bring on 2013,” he added.

“I got more confidence in the car and attacked more and more with each stage. I was still making little mistakes, but things are looking very positive for next year.

“By the end of the event we were only a second per kilometre slower than Eli Evans in his championship-winning Honda, and we were able to match times with his team-mate, Mark Pedder.

“The car is great fun to drive – the best fun I’ve ever had in a rally car!

“It sounds awesome and it’s just full-on attack everywhere. Maximum commitment all the time, and maximum attack. I can’t wait for next year.”

Spedding was pleased with the progress they had made too, given that it was the car’s Australian debut.

“It really is an awesome car and Justin put in a great drive all weekend. We had some problems, but the car will be a contender in 2013,” Spedding said.

Matt Lee had a weekend to forget in the Activ RallySport Toyota Celica, breaking a gearbox on the first stage of the event.

Activ RallySport will return to the ARC bigger and better in 2013, with current 4WD Champion, Michael Boaden, joining the team in a second South African-built Volkswagen Polo Mk4.

The NSW driver will prepare the car in his Wauchope, NSW, workshop, but the car will be run out of the Activ RallySport operation during events.

“This is a really exciting development for Activ RallySport, and we’re looking forward to teaming up with Michael,” Dowel said.

“We’ll make further announcements in January, including the unveiling of our new naming rights sponsor for the 2013 ARC.”

Final Results, 2012 Rally Victoria

Heat 2

1. Evans / Weston, Honda Jazz, 1h35m00.8s
2. Mackenzie / Mackenzie, Ford Fiesta, +2m27.7s
3. Pedder / Ryan, Honda Jazz, +2m45.6s
4. Dowel / Spedding, Volkswagen Polo Mk4, +3m27.1s
5. Roe / Farrell, Nissan 200SX, +4m46.0s
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