ATKINSON PREPARING FOR CYPRUS HEAT
Australian Chris Atkinson will continue his campaign in the FIA World Rally Championship when he competes in Rally Cyprus with the Subaru World Rally Team this weekend.
Boyd by the experience he gained from the recent Rally Italia the young Australian believes that fitness and a good rhythm are the two main ingredients to a strong showing on the rough and tough roads he and co-driver Glenn Macneall will be faced with this weekend.
With the fitness being a main focus for the event the pair joined with team-mate Petter Solberg and his co-driver Phil Mills, SWRT bosses David Lapworth and Paul Howarth, fitness trainer John Mills and team paramedic John Jones for a training and management camp over the past four days in Cyprus.
Detailed below is information on the training camp taken from a recent interview with John Mills courtesy of the Subaru World Rally Team:
Who's going to the camp and when will it be?
It's going to run from Saturday 7 May until Monday 9 May inclusive, in Cyprus. Paul Howarth, David Lapworth, Petter and Phil, Chris and Glenn, Denis, Phil's personal trainer David Gethin, John Jones (the team's paramedic) and I will be attending.
What's the purpose of the camp?
The main thing is to get everyone used to working in the heat ahead of the next three hot gravel events. The drivers and co-drivers are already well-prepared physically to cope with the conditions, so the camp's not about trying to make them fitter in a couple of days. It's about getting them used to working in an extreme environment and introducing strategies to help them compete in high temperatures. The next three events have a high rate of attrition and often present specific problems, so we'll be preparing them for those. We want to make sure that everyone is able to reach the correct outcome when in a pressurised situation.
How will you be doing that?
First, we'll hold a series of physical tasks to get everyone working outside and acclimatised to the heat. We'll then gradually introduce a number of mental challenges, based on possible scenarios that may occur during the next three rallies, to improve their skills and teamwork.
What will you be looking for in each driver / management member?
The tasks will enable us to analyse the dynamics of each group and study the relationships between driver and co-driver and management-and-crew. We'll be able to see who works well together and if there are any areas we need to develop. From the participants' point of view, the things they'll be gaining are acclimatisation to the heat, an ability to formulate coping strategies and an understanding of why they're so important
What activities will you be organising?
Mountain biking, which will be interspersed with mental tasks, an orienteering course that will include a series of challenges designed to get everyone thinking and working together. The third day will include a driver review meeting where we'll assess goals set at the beginning of the year and make sure that they're still in line to be achieved.
How hot are you expecting it to be in Cyprus?
We're expecting temperatures of around 35C by midday, but inside a car it can feel much hotter, stickier and more uncomfortable. Drivers need to be very fit and mentally alert to perform in such extreme conditions for three days and that's what we're going to Cyprus to achieve.
This weekend marks three months since Atkinson first drove a world rally spec Subaru in competition.
Throughout his first four events at the highest level of rallying in the world Atkinson's speed has been impressive winning three stages (2 in New Zealand, 1 in Italy). He has recorded 45 stage times inside the top ten from the 71 stages that have been conducted in this year's World Rally Championship.
This will be Atkinson's first experience of a classic hot event and so his main goal from the team is to finish the rally and build his speed slowly and progressively. Based on the narrow and twisty roads of the Trodos Mountains near Limassol this weekend's event is widely regarded as the slowest, hottest and roughest event of the year.
"I've been watching video footage of last year's route to familiarise myself with the conditions and am looking to gain as much experience as possible," said Atkinson.
"It's going to be very rough and I've heard that the stages haven't been repaired from last year, so they're likely to become rutted straight away. With average speeds below 60kph on some stages, it's important to quickly get into a good driving rhythm and avoid losing a lot of time through the long stages.
"A lot of cars are going to have trouble due to the tough conditions and dnf so we will try to stay clear running at that pace anyone at the front can make a mistake or get caught out by a rock that is unexpected so you never know what is going to happen. Hopefully we can have a clean run and get some good points."
Rally Cyprus is the sixth of 16 rounds to be contested in Championship. It will be contested across 18 stages over the three days of competition for a total competitive distance of 326.68 kilometres. It is the same route that was used in last year's event won by Marcus Gronholm ahead of Sebastien Loeb and Markko Martin.
Following his recent victory in Rally Italia Sebastien Loeb leads the FIA World Drivers Championship on 35 points, a mere one point ahead of Solberg. Markko Martin is a further six points in arrears in third place followed by Marcus Gronholm (26) and Toni Gardemeister (25).