WRC

Rally of Great Britain: Chris Atkinson preview

ATKINSON HEADS BACK TO FAMILIAR TERRAIN Following an impressive performance during his tarmac rallying debut last month Australian Chris Atkinson will return to more familiar terrain this weekend to compete in Wales Rally GB, round 12 of the ...

ATKINSON HEADS BACK TO FAMILIAR TERRAIN

Following an impressive performance during his tarmac rallying debut last month Australian Chris Atkinson will return to more familiar terrain this weekend to compete in Wales Rally GB, round 12 of the World Rally Championship.

Based in the Welsh capital of Cardiff this UK round of the Championship is contested on gravel roads throughout the forests in the South of Wales.

For the tenth time this year Wales Rally GB will be an event that Atkinson hasn't contested previously. He does however have the experience of completing the reconnaissance for last year's event on his side.

"This is my first Rally GB, and I think it will be tough but I have the knowledge gained from completing the recce last year to give me a bit of a head start," said Atkinson.

"There are some nice stages in the event, but it could get tricky if it rains. The team has a lot of knowledge about the event, and I've got some experience of rallying in wet conditions. In the Asia-Pacific series I did last year we had lots of muddy rallies, so that may help me over the weekend."

Throughout Atkinson's opening 11 events with the Subaru team the young Australian has recorded a number of achievements including three stage victories and has also set 24 stage times inside the top five.

Boosted by the speed that he and his West Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall have shown over the past few events Atkinson is confident of a strong finish in Wales, despite the tricky conditions that the pair may face.

"I'm pleased with the speed we've shown in previous events and if we can maintain this speed and improvement I am confident we will gain a good result," said Atkinson

"Today I will be completing my second gravel test of the year in mid Wales which will be good to get some more miles in the car before the weekend. Unlike Australia where the roads vary so much from different parts of the country I think the surfaces throughout Wales are very similar. The biggest factor I believe will be the changeable weather."

The Subaru team has an impressive record in their local event with the England based team taking out eight of the previous ten Rally GB events contested in the WRC. Its winning streak started in 1994 when Colin McRae drove the Impreza to a maiden Rally GB win, a feat he repeated the following year and again in 1997. Richard Burns later scored two victories in '99 and 2000.

Atkinson's team-mate Petter Solberg scored his maiden WRC victory at the event in 2002. He went on to win in Wales, and claim the drivers Championship in 2003 before once again claiming the victory in Rally GB last year. If successful in claiming his fourth straight victory in the event he will join a select group of only a handful of drivers to have won an individual World Championship event four years in a row.

Wales Rally GB will consist of 354.22 competitive kilometres across 17 timed stages, the first of which will begin at 7:58am local time on Friday. For the first time crew will contest a stage of the WRC indoors when they tackle the 1.1km super special stage inside Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, host of the 2005 FA Cup Final, on Saturday night.

With five rounds remaining in the Championship, including Perth's Telstra Rally Australia in November, Sebastien Loeb holds a commanding 32-point lead in his Title defense over Marcus Gronholm. Solberg is six points further back in third.

The Subaru World Rally Team will enter a three-car team this weekend with Atkinson and Solberg being joined by Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin. Atkinson and Solberg will be the two drivers eligible to score points towards the Manufacturers Championship.

The local time in Wales is 9 hours behind AEST.

-car-

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