WRC

Rally Deutschland: Chris Atkinson preview

TARMAC TEST AWAITS ATKINSON IN GERMANY In the toughest test of his World Rally Championship career Australian Chris Atkinson will make his tarmac debut aboard a Subaru WRC Impreza when the OMV Rallye Deutschland begins on Friday. Based in the...

TARMAC TEST AWAITS ATKINSON IN GERMANY

In the toughest test of his World Rally Championship career Australian Chris Atkinson will make his tarmac debut aboard a Subaru WRC Impreza when the OMV Rallye Deutschland begins on Friday.

Based in the countryside around Trier, the oldest city in Germany, the rally presents Atkinson with some of the most specialist stages of the year and the toughest challenge since joining the Subaru World Rally Team at the start of the year.

This weekend's event is Atkinson's first event on tarmac aboard a World Rally spec Impreza and only the second in his career. His only other start in a sealed surface event came last year when he competed aboard a Group N Subaru in a round of the Chinese Rally Championship.

"This will be my first attempt at a proper WRC tarmac rally and I'm expecting it to be a steep learning curve. This year's all about learning and gaining experience, but this rally is going to be a bigger challenge than normal," said Atkinson.

"With it being my first tarmac event my stage times are not the primary consideration this weekend, instead I'm aiming to achieve a good understanding of the car and set-up and complete the rally.

"I had a test day last month on tarmac where I felt quite comfortable in the car and have also sat in the car during a test run with both Petter (Solberg) and Stephane (Sarrazin) but this weekend is a whole new challenge.

"The roads are notoriously difficult, with constantly changing surfaces and I'll be trying my best not to get caught out. I've done only one small tarmac rally before, that was in China in a Group N Subaru, but that's the limit of my experience."

The stage conditions this weekend vary between the narrow vineyard roads of the Mosel region with its long, fast straights and 90-degree corners, the smooth roads of Saarland and the bumpy, rough concrete tracks of the Baumholder military ranges. Designed for tank training exercises, the army roads are unlike anything else in the Championship. Flanked by huge, unforgiving concrete kerbstones, the wide asphalt sections are abrasive and dirty, while a fine dusting of sand makes them exceptionally slippery when wet.

"I think the most difficult thing will be predicting the grip levels on the different surfaces. But I've been studying the video footage from previous years and am keen to get out there," said Atkinson.

"I will be starting off pretty cautiously and be taking in all of the advice from the more experienced people around me from the team over the weekend."

In the three years since the German event made its debut on the World Rally Championship calendar in 2002, Sebastien Loeb has dominated remaining undefeated on the tricky tarmac conditions.

Loeb holds a handy buffer in the defense of his World Championship with a 28-point lead over Marcus Gronholm who won the previous round in held in Finland earlier this month. Atkinson's team-mate, Petter Solberg is third.

Atkinson will be one of three entries fielded by the Subaru World Rally Team this weekend in Rally Deutschland with Stephane Sarrazin returning to the Championship. After his impressive performance in the corresponding round last year Sarrazin joins Solberg as the nominated drivers eligible to score points in the Manufacturers Championship.

Rallye Deutschland comprises three Legs, 355 competitive kilometres across 19 timed special stages. The first car begins the opening stage at 9.53am local time with the winning car to cross the finish ramp on Sunday afternoon.

The time in Trier, Germany is 8 hours behind AEST.

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Series WRC
Drivers Stéphane Sarrazin , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Chris Atkinson