Subaru's Chris Atkinson is on track for his best result in a tarmac rally after making steady progress during the second leg of Rallye de Catalunya, the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship, in Spain today.
Due to their position after the opening leg Atkinson and West Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall was the first crew to tackle the technical Spanish stages today.
The pair took full advantage of the clean road by setting an impressive time on the opening stage of the day. Unfortunately this stage was later cancelled by organisers on safety grounds after only four crews had completed the test as too many spectators were present in the stage.
Atkinson's confidence grew with each of the remaining five stages contested throughout the day setting times inside the top ten on all but one occasion where he was 11th fastest. The most impressive time of the day by Atkinson came on stage nine (28.47km Colldejou) where he set the seventh fastest time, less than a second behind Subaru team-mate, 2003 World Champion, Petter Solberg.
"Today was probably our best day on tarmac. Sometimes it can be frustrating that we are not challenging the top of the leaderboard, however we have to be realistic given our limited tarmac experience," said Atkinson.
"Obviously being the first car on the road helped us a bit today but the car is working well and I'm getting into a good rhythm and feeling comfortable with the car on tarmac. Once again there weren't too many risks taken by us today.
"The most pleasing aspect is that when you look at the times over our three tarmac events we are continually getting faster and adapting to the conditions very quickly. I have been very happy with the improvement between yesterday and today but there is still a lot more learning to do before we can push 100%."
Atkinson's performance throughout the day also impressed Subaru World Rally Team Technical Director David Lapworth.
"Chris has put a good deal of thought into where he could make some steps in performance and, while still driving comfortably, is picking up his pace all the time. We've been impressed with his attitude and encouraged by some very good split and stage times," said Lapworth.
With only three stages in tomorrow's final leg consisting of 68 competitive kilometres Atkinson is confident of maintaining ninth position and recording his fifth top ten finish during his debut year in the WRC.
Throughout the day Sebastien Loeb continued his dominance of the event and holds almost a minute lead over Citroen team-mate Francois Duval entering tomorrow's final leg. Xavier Pons was ninth after the opening day but finds himself in third at the end of day two after some impressive times and benefiting from the demise of several drivers around him including Marcus Gronholm who encountered overheating problems and was forced to withdraw.
The first car will take to the opening stage of leg three at 8:35am local time. The local time in Spain is eight hours behind AEDST.