WRC

Rally Mexico: Chris Atkinson final day notes

ENGINE WOES END ATKINSON'S RUN IN MEXICO Australian Chris Atkinson traded times with the best in the business during his second World Rally Championship event with the Subaru World Rally Team in Mexico last weekend before he was forced onto the...

ENGINE WOES END ATKINSON'S RUN IN MEXICO

Australian Chris Atkinson traded times with the best in the business during his second World Rally Championship event with the Subaru World Rally Team in Mexico last weekend before he was forced onto the sidelines within sight of the finish with an engine problem.

Atkinson's performance during the opening two days was impressive to be running in fifth position at half distance.

During the opening stage of the event he set the third fastest stage time, a career best.

While closing in on fourth spot yesterday, Atkinson's run was halted on the ninth stage of the event after hitting a rock which damaged the power steering, he later lost his right front wheel in a pothole.

After repairs were made to his Impreza WRC2005 Atkinson was able to restart in today's final leg.

During today's opening stage Atkinson's performance was hampered by a fluctuating oil pressure in his engine, a problem that had appeared as a consequence of yesterday's damage.

Despite his engine problems Atkinson had elevated himself to be just outside the top ten with only the final, and longest stage, of the event (44.39km) remaining.

Nearing the end of final stage the oil pressure continued to drop and Atkinson was forced to withdraw from the event two kilometres from the end of the stage.

"Unfortunately we had some problems yesterday and didn't finish today as a consequence of these problems but I think our goals of gaining pace have been achieved this weekend," said Atkinson.

"The pace goals have been easily achieved this weekend, the finishing goals could have exceeded all expectations if we continued the same way we were going in the opening couple of days, but that's life, we will deal with that and move onto the next one.

"The most important this is that we have learnt a lot this weekend and set some really good stage times, which is what our number one aim was coming in to the event.

"It could have been a very good result in only our second event if we had a good run but we are continuing to learn about the car, over the weekend my driving continually improved and working with the team the set up of the car was much better as well."

While the day ended early for Atkinson his Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg capped off a brilliant debut for the new Subaru Impreza WRC2005 in Mexico by claiming his second victory in a row, the 12th of his career.

Second behind Solberg was Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm, 34.5 seconds in arrears with his team mate Markko Martin a further minute behind in third position.

Solberg's victory elevates him into the lead of the Championship on 20 points one point ahead of Martin.

By virtue of his sixth place finish in Mexico Championship leader Toni Gardemeister has dropped to third place in the standings, two points clear of defending World Champion Sebastien Loeb.

Atkinson will return home to Australia later this week to begin preparations for the next round in the Championship to be held in New Zealand on April 8 - 10.

Last year Atkinson competed in the Rally New Zealand aboard a Group N (Production) specification Subaru.

"New Zealand is a tough event, quite fast and experience really counts there, we will go into it with the same attitude of aiming to learn and achieve specific goals. Hopefully we can continue the pace shown this weekend and possibly come away with a good result," said Atkinson.

-ar-

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Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Toni Gardemeister , Chris Atkinson , Markko Martin