Atkinson Flies Aussie Flag High in Finland In motorsport there are three main ingredients that are considered in vital if a driver is to be successful in their chosen field, talent, dedication and determination. Queensland rally driver, Chris...
Atkinson Flies Aussie Flag High in Finland
In motorsport there are three main ingredients that are considered in vital if a driver is to be successful in their chosen field, talent, dedication and determination.
Queensland rally driver, Chris Atkinson has already proven he has what it takes to mix it with Australia's best last weekend he showed he also has what it takes to challenge the best in the world.
Competing in the Neste Rally Finland aboard a Group N spec Tommi Makinen prepared Subaru WRX Sti Atkinson was impressive showing some great bursts of speed throughout the event.
While mechanical problems and several flat tyres masked his outright finishing position Atkinson outpaced many of his more fancied and experienced rivals throughout the weekend with his brother and co-driver Ben alongside.
At the completion of the opening three stages of the event kinson was Atplaced fourth in Group N and the leading Subaru.
Atkinson had his luck turn sour on the next stage however when he endured two flat tyres on the one stage forcing him to drop well down the order and effectively out of contention losing 10 minutes.
"I haven't had a flat tyre for quite a while so to have two in one stage was very frustrating, especially when we were going so well" said Atkinson.
Over the ensuing stages Atkinson began to endure a lack of power due to a broken manifold, despite this he pushed on setting times on most stages inside the top six of Group N.
As the day progressed the centre differential began to make life difficult for Atkinson changing randomly from four-wheel-drive to two-wheel-drive making the car extremely difficult to drive.
"You would come over a crest, which there a lot of here, in four wheel drive mode and when you land you'd find yourself in only rear wheel making it even more of a handful," said Atkinson.
Atkinson showed true grit and determination to ensure he got to the finish of the leg before the team could make repairs to the centre differential during the overnight service.
Throughout the second leg Atkinson was able to show glimpses of his natural talent setting times comparable to the leaders in the Group N category. On more than one occasion he was mere seconds from leader Gianluigi Galli, who is a WRC regular for Mitsubishi.
"All rally we have simply driven to our notes and haven't taken any risks, if there is one thing that the Australian events have taught us is to have good notes," said Atkinson.
"One of the stages here had 30 kilometres of crest after crest which was a real buzz to complete, especially with people lined 10 deep all throughout the stage and then we topped the stage off with a good time."
Despite still being down on power Atkinson remained focused and achieving the number one goal of making it to the finish of one of the world's toughest rally's in his first attempt.
Not even two flat tyres on the final two stages could stop Atkinson from making it to the finish ramp for seventh in Group N and 33rd outright from the original 68 starters.
"It is a little disappointing to finish so far back in the field but when you put it all in perspective we got to the end of a very tough event and put in some good stage times in the process," said Atkinson.
"Realistically we would have been up inside the top five of Group N if we didn't have the dramas throughout the weekend.
"The event itself has been amazing, the people and hype about the event here is huge, it has all been a great experience and one that will benefit us in the future."
Gianluigi Galli claimed the Group N victory ahead of Kaj Kuistila and Martin Stenshorne. Marcus Gronholm took the overall honours ahead of Markko Martin and Carlos Sainz.
After returning to Australia later this week Atkinson will prepare for the fifth round of the Globalstar Australian Rally Championship at the Premier State Rally on August 27-29.
Atkinson has been assisted to compete in the World Rally Championship round at the Neste Rally Finland courtesy of the valuable support from Telstra Rally Australia, DMS shock absorbers, BF Goodrich, Network TEN and Qantas.
Telstra Rally Australia will be held 11-14 November 2004 in Perth and surrounding areas. This year is the first year that Telstra Rally Australia will be the final round of the 16 round FIA World Rally Championship.