MATURE AND COMPOSED DRIVE BY ATKINSON When Australian Chris Atkinson restarted at the beginning of leg two in Rally Cyprus, Round Six of the FIA World Rally Championship, his goal was to get to the end of the event and gain further experience...
MATURE AND COMPOSED DRIVE BY ATKINSON
When Australian Chris Atkinson restarted at the beginning of leg two in Rally Cyprus, Round Six of the FIA World Rally Championship, his goal was to get to the end of the event and gain further experience in the extremely rough and tough conditions.
The 25-year-old Australian and his co-driver Glenn Macneall restarted this morning in 20th position after being forced out of yesterday's opening leg with clutch problems prior to the start of stage three.
While many of his more experience rivals fell victim to the treacherous road conditions Atkinson continued to grow in confidence behind the wheel of his Subaru Impreza to climb up seven positions throughout the day courtesy of a calculated and composed drive.
Today's opening stage was one of the most treacherous in the rally with crews taking more than 10 minutes to complete the 13.33km stage won by Sebastien Loeb. Atkinson was eighth fastest.
Atkinson continued this form into the second stage of the day, an extremely narrow, rough and twisty 30.33 kilometres, to again set the eighth fastest stage time.
On the next stage Atkinson suffered an electronic gear selection glitch when his Impreza got stuck in first gear 2km from the start. He stopped to switch from a manual gear change system to an automatic mode and continued to finish the stage.
"We had a problem with our gear paddle and the car was stuck in first gear. We had to stop on the stage which cost us two minutes on the leaders," said Atkinson.
Throughout the three stages held this afternoon crews competed on not only the tough road conditions but also in some of the hottest conditions in the Championship with temperatures rising to 34 degrees.
These temperatures combined with the low average speeds and dusty conditions made the afternoon extremely uncomfortable inside the cabin for the crews.
"The temperature inside the car rose to over 40 degrees, combine that with the dust inside the cabin and the slow speeds and it is very tough out there," said Atkinson.
Atkinson was focused on furthering his experience and continued his composed drive to record times inside the top ten throughout the remainder of the day.
"One the whole it was a good day," said Atkinson.
"As we were the second car on the road we encountered some of the worst road conditions with some very loose gravel on the rough road it was very slippery and tough.
"It hasn't been the best of weekends but we are working on more set up changes and coming away with some points for the team. Hopefully we can finish on a good note and set some good times during the final day.
"On roads like this the main focus is ensuring that we get to the end of the event unscathed and gain experience leading into the next few tough events."
Atkinson's Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg was forced out of the event prior to today's start due to concern about the condition of his engine. Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm met a similar fate with a terminal engine problem prior to the start of today's opening stage and was unable to continue.
Francois Duval's Rally Cyprus came to a fiery end on the penultimate stage of the day when the sixth placed driver ran wide 4 kilometres from the start of the stage and hit a tree. His Citroen caught fire following the impact, both Duval and his co-driver Stephane Prevot were unhurt in the incident. The stage was stopped due to the incident and the cars yet to complete the stage, including rally leader Loeb, given nominal times for the 30.33km test.
The remaining cars unable to complete stage 11 were forced to take an alternate route to stage 12 and were delayed to the start of the final stage of the day. It is believed that spectators thought that the delay was actually the end of the competitive running and walked onto the road, forcing organisers to cancel the stage and provide the remeaining drivers, including Loeb and Stohl with nominal times for the stage.
Throughout all of the carnage and mechanical woes endured by his opposition Loeb maintained his dominance of the event aboard his Citroen to extend his lead to over three minutes ahead of privateer entries Manfred Stohl and Henning Solberg.
Tomorrow's third and final leg is the shortest leg in Rally Cyprus consisting of six stages across a total of 95.34 competitive kilometres.
The first car will take to the start line for the opening stage at 7:18am local time (2:18pm AEST).