Justin Dowel and Matt Lee are still in with a big chance of winning the 2011 Bosch Australian Rally Championship, despite a challenging weekend in the Coffs Coast Rally.

Round four of the national championship was held in conjunction with Australia’s round of the World Rally Championship, and the Activ RallySport team were looking forward to a strong result, but mechanical dramas and treacherous weather conditions meant that their weekend didn’t go exactly to plan.

Rain on the first day made the clay-based stages incredibly slippery, but Dowel and Lee made a solid start in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.

However, a faulty water pump soon required the team to put four litres of water into the radiator after every stage. This, in turn, blew the engine’s head gasket and the performance of the Lancer suffered as a result.

Determined to push on as quickly as possible, Dowel then made a driving error late on the first day, clipping an bank and damaging the front of the car, forcing them to miss the evening’s Super Special stages.

The Activ RallySport team then performed miracles to get the car ready for the start of the second day, although Dowel was unsure what sort of performance the car would provide, and whether replacing the water pump and the head gasket would solve all their problems.

Day two was once again drama packed for the team, and despite a light roll and an under-performing car, Dowel managed to bring the car home sixth in the Bosch Australian Rally Championship field, and secure important series points.

Queenslander Steve Shepheard took his first ARC win after claiming the Coffs Coast Rally title, driving a Lancer Evo X, followed by the Toyota of Ryan Smart and Eli Evans’ Honda Civic.

“It was one of those weekends were everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” Dowel said. “But despite all the challenges we threw at the team, they kept their heads high and did an awesome job to keep the car going.

“After the highs of winning the South Australian event last month, we came back to earth with a thud here in Coffs Harbour.

“Rallying can be a tough sport, so we’ve just got to regroup over the next two months, and hit the final round of the championship in Victoria with all guns blazing.

“We’re only three points behind Ryan in the title race, so there’s everything still to play for.”

The Bosch Australian Rally Championship will conclude with Rally Victoria from November 12-13.

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