ATKINSON SHOWS HIS POTENTIAL IN FINLAND Subaru driver Chris Atkinson proved that he has the potential to be one of the best drivers in the world by setting some impressive stage times in the most prestigious round of the World Rally...
ATKINSON SHOWS HIS POTENTIAL IN FINLAND
Subaru driver Chris Atkinson proved that he has the potential to be one of the best drivers in the world by setting some impressive stage times in the most prestigious round of the World Rally Championship, Neste Rally Finland, over the weekend.
During his rookie year in the Championship Atkinson has endured a meteoric rise to towards the top of the time sheets amongst World Champions Petter Solberg, Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb.
In the Finnish event the young Australian and his co-driver Glenn Macneall continued their impressive speed by setting times inside the top five on four occasions aboard their Subaru Impreza WRC.
To be successful in Finland crews need a savvy combination of tactical knowledge, smooth and efficient technique and flat-out commitment to cope with the high speeds, fast kinks and mammoth jumps that litter the smooth, loose-surface stages.
Over the years, the event has been dominated by the Scandinavians, used to driving on roads like these since they were knee-high to a grasshopper. It is a rare sight to see others than drivers from outside the Nordic circle setting fast stage times.
"This weekend was a fantastic event, we really enjoyed the stages, it is a shame that we made a couple of small mistakes but when you come here and try to go flat out and set some good times then that is going to happen, but overall we are pretty happy," said Atkinson.
"Coming into the event I hoped that we would be close to the pace but the pace we started on the opening day was probably a little bit faster than we thought we would be setting before a small rock caused us a problem.
"At the start of the second day I was pretty fired up and straight away we were setting similar times as Marcus Gronholm who won the event. So we were happy with that and I can't wait to get back here next year."
The speed shown by Atkinson this weekend on some of the fastest and trickiest roads in the Championship, including jumps that the cars fly over at speeds in excess of 150km/h, has provided him with a confidence boost entering the second half of the Championship.
"By setting stage times like what we did this weekend gives me confidence for the remaining events in the year knowing that we can match the top drivers. Hopefully I can start at a better pace as well and continue it on through the rally to be in a points position at the end," said Atkinson.
"The aim is to be inside the top five on a consistent basis on the gravel events I think we have definitely got the pace so we have just got to keep working away and getting the experience and consistency."
After setting impressive times throughout the weekend Atkinson reported ominous noises from the engine at the near the end of the third last stage of today's final leg. Rather than risking further damage for little return considering his retirement over the first two days and having already driven each of the day's two stages, he retired from today's final leg.
Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm was the dominant driver over the weekend to win his fifth Rally Finland crown in six years. Championship leader Sebastien Loeb finished second ahead of Estonian Markko Martin and Atkinson's team-mate Petter Solberg.
Courtesy of his second place Loeb extended his Championship lead to 28 points. Gronholm moved ahead of Solberg into second place in the points standings.
The next round of the Championship is the OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland in three weeks time with the asphalt event presenting another new challenge for Atkinson.
"Germany will be my first asphalt event and I am really looking forward to it,, it will all be about experience and learning as much as possible and increase throughout the weekend," said Atkinson.