Atkinson Takes it To The Wire
Queenslander Chris Atkinson came within a seconds of a remarkable comeback and stealing the Globalstar Australian Rally Championship in the final round at the NGK Rally of Melbourne today.
From the outset of this year's Championship Atkinson has been the dominant driver claiming more fastest stage times, heat wins and overall victories than any other.
After being left on the bottom of the points table after the opening round in Perth where he was excluded due to a non performance mechanical technicality Atkinson was out to prove he had what it took to become the Champion.
Driving the Prodrive built Subaru WRX Sti with his brother Ben as co-driver Atkinson was nothing short of scintialting speed throughout the previous four rounds of the Championship to be within striking distance entering this weekend's competition in the forests of the Yarra Valley.
In the opening day of the round yesterday Atkinson's outright speed was masked by the loose gravel roads finishing third behind his Subaru stablemates Cody Crocker and Dean Herridge.
"We were within striking distance of Cody for most of the day, it was only the final stage where we lost some time on a very slippery stage," said Atkinson.
Atkinson started the final day with the Championship still in his sights but had to claim the heat win and have four cars between himself and Crocker.
From the opening stage today Atkinson set the pace leading the field by five seconds and he continually extended his lead throughout the day.
With four stages remaining Atkinson was in the lead with Crocker languishing in fourth and the Championship was in the balance.
Despite enduring two flat tyres throughout the day to Atkinson went on to claim his fifth heat win for year and continue the pressure on Crocker.
The title went down to the final super special stage at the De Bortoli winery where Simon Evans rolled out of second place allowing Crocker to second behind Atkinson for the heat and in the processes sealing his Championship victory.
Atkinson's heat win today provided him with enough points to secure second overall for the weekend behind Crocker who clinched his first overall win for the year. Herridge finished third to make it an all Subaru podium for the first time ever.
Crocker's second place in today's heat sealed his second Australian Championship with a total of 187.5 points. Atkinson was second 10.5 points behind Crocker with Evans a further 33 points in arrears.
"I am feeling very weird right now, it has been a tremendous year winning three, or should that be four, from six rounds but we haven't won the Championship," said Atkinson.
"While it would have been great to win the Championship I think we have proven we have what it takes to become number one and we will be ready to prove this next year in Australia along with taking on the world."
While his plans for the 2005 Atkinson is certainly on the "steps of stardom" and will be out to take that next step in the 2005 Globalstar Australian Rally Championship.
<pre> 2004 Globalstar Australian Rally Championship
Final Positions 1. Cody Crocker/Greg Foletta Subaru 187.5 2. Chris Atkinson/Ben Atkinson Subaru 177 3. Simon Evans/Sue Evans Toyota 144 4. Juha Kangas/Julia Rabbett Mitsubishi 139 5. Dean Herrdige/Glenn Macneall Subaru 135 6. Neal Bates/Coral Taylor Toyota 108 7. Ed Ordynski/Iain Stewart Mitsubishi 103 8. Scott Pedder/Paul Humm Mitsubishi 70 9. Brad Goldsbrough/Dale Moscatt Subaru 38 10. Ben Barker/Damien Long Toyota 29
2004 NGK Rally of Melbourne
Overall Final Results 1. Cody Crocker/Greg Foletta Subaru 55.5 points 2. Chris Atkinson/Ben Atkinson Subaru 51 3. Dean Herridge/Glenn Macneall Subaru 45 4. Simon Evans/Sue Evans Toyota 33 5. Ed Ordy nski/Iain Stewart Mitsubishi 21 6. Neal Bates/Coral Taylor Toyota 18 7. Juha Kangas/Julia Rabbett Mitsubishi 15 7. Ben Barker/Damien Long Toyota 15 9. Brad Goldsbrough/Dale Moscatt Subaru 9 10. Mark Thompson/Rita Thompson Mitsubishi 6