ATKINSON FIGHTS BACK IN ANOTHER DRAMA FILLED DAY
Australian Subaru driver Chris Atkinson has mounted a tremendous fight back during another drama filled day at Telstra Rally Australia, the final round of the World Rally Championship, in Western Australia today.
The young Queenslander led the early running of the event yesterday after winning the first two forest stages before mechanical problems drop him down the order later in the day.
While Atkinson was able to continue today some of his more fancied rivals weren't so fortunate. Two-time world champion Sebastien Loeb crashed out of the rally in the final forest stage yesterday and Marcus Gronholm was forced out of the event earlier in the day with suspension problems ending his final rally with the Peugeot's team.
After dropping as low as 13th following their problems Atkinson and his West Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall have fought back to be in eighth position mid way through the second full day of action.
Unfortunately their overnight position forced them to be the second crew to tackle today's stages on the marble-like surface which gives the drivers among the first in the running order a distinct disadvantage as they are forced to sweep the roads and unveil a hard packed base for their rivals behind.
Despite this disadvantage Atkinson pushed to the limits during the opening stage of the day and set the tenth fastest time through the first pass on the 17.71km Bannister North stage. His time could have been closer to the leaders if not for a high speed spin mid way through the stage which tore the front spoiler from his Subaru.
"We had a big spin in sixth gear, I don't know how we got away it, we were very lucky. At one stage we were heading straight for a tree stump but we managed to get the car back on the road with only minor damage and lost about 10 seconds," said Atkinson.
"The spoiler got torn off and the wheel alignment was put out a little bit but the car was still very good to drive and we set a respectable time considering our road position."
With no service until later in the afternoon Atkinson was forced to contest four stages without a front spoiler hampering his speed. Despite the lack of down force he set times within reach of the leaders and is confident of moving further up the leader board this afternoon.
"It was pretty tricky out there without a front spoiler giving us down force on the front of the car and the roads were also very slippery. We tried not to lose too much time this morning but will certainly be pushing to move up the order this afternoon," said Atkinson.
In another twist in the drama of this weekend's event rally leader, Petter Solberg was forced out after hitting a kangaroo at high speed on the second stage of the day. The impact caused severe damage to the front of his car and its engine.
There will be a further two stages to be contested in the Western Australian state forests outside of Perth late this afternoon followed by a pair of runs around the 2.35km man made super special tests around the Gloucester Park trotting track.
Citroen driver Francois Duval leads the rally 23 seconds ahead of Colin McRae who is followed by Harri Rovanpera. Atkinson is seventh two minutes off the lead.