WRC

Rally Australia: Atkinson Racing leg one summary

Atkinson Battles For Group N Lead at Telstra Rally Australia Australian rally driver Chris Atkinson has showed his natural talent and determination during a tremendous fightback to in contention for the lead in the Group N category at...

Atkinson Battles For Group N Lead at Telstra Rally Australia

Australian rally driver Chris Atkinson has showed his natural talent and determination during a tremendous fightback to in contention for the lead in the Group N category at the Telstra Rally Australia event in Western Australia.

The event, which doubles as the final round of the World Championship, may normally have the world talking about how good the Australian countryside is, but today all the talk is about Atkinson's superb performance.

After the early stages during yesterday's opening leg Atkinson was languishing down the order in 16th outright and just inside the top ten Group N (Production World Championship) competitors, over 30 seconds behind the leader.

The tide turned yesterday afternoon when Atkinson's Prodrive-built Subaru WRX-Sti was again firing at full noise and the 24-year-old set the fastest stage time on the final three forest stages of the day.

The performance late in the day by Atkinson and his new co-driver Glenn Macneall ensured they bridged the gap to the Group N leader, Alistair McRae to a mere 11.2 seconds. This performance also elevated Atkinson to second in Group N and eighth outright at the completion of the opening leg.

"We had an electrical problem early in the day making the car very interesting and uncharacteristic to drive," said Atkinson.

"In the afternoon the car was almost perfect and we pushed on a couple of the stages to make up the ground we lost in the morning."

Focused on closing the gap to the Group N leader this morning Atkinson continued his winning form to set the fastest stage time on the opening stage of the day, in the process taking over the lead in Group N and move into sixth outright.

Disaster struck for Atkinson when he endured a flat tyre on the fifth stage of the day, this handed the Group N lead to fellow Australian Dean Herridge.

"We had a problem selecting fifth gear on the stages before but we were able to make some running repairs and not lose much time, but on the next stage we had a flat tyre which cost us over a minute," said Atkinson.

"it goes to show how easily things can turn against you, we now have to fight back again.

"This morning I chose a softer tyre than yesterday morning which we really benefited from but with the weather warming up we have changed to a slightly harder tyre compound for the next pair of stages."

Herridge is followed by McRae, Cody Crocker with Atkinson a close fourth.

In the battle for the outright honours newly crowned World Champion Sebastien Loeb leads the way in his Citreon by over a minute from Harri Rovanpera with Francois Duval a further 55 seconds behind.

Telstra Rally Australia continues tomorrow with the final leg consisting of six stages across a 127.83 kilometres.

All of the action from Telstra Rally Australia can be seen on Network Ten tomorrow afternoon from midday.

-Atkinson Racing

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