ATKINSON FINISHES ITALY ON A HIGH Australian Chris Atkinson finished his fourth event in the World Rally Championship with the Subaru World Rally Team on a high by setting the fastest time on the penultimate stage of the Supermag Rally Italia...
ATKINSON FINISHES ITALY ON A HIGH
Australian Chris Atkinson finished his fourth event in the World Rally Championship with the Subaru World Rally Team on a high by setting the fastest time on the penultimate stage of the Supermag Rally Italia Sardinia today.
Set in the north east region of the Italian island of Sardinia the event is one of the toughest in the Championship with competitors enduring some of the roughest and narrowest roads in the WRC.
After failing to finish the opening two legs of the event due to suspension damage Atkinson and co-driver Glenn Macneall restarted in the final day under SUPERally regulations to further their experience in the WRC.
In a boost to his confidence Atkinson added another stage victory to the pair he won in New Zealand last month when he set the fastest time in the 11.05km Bortigiadas stage today.
With the Bortigiadas stage one of the fastest and widest in the event Atkinson set a blistering pace to finish the 2.5 seconds ahead of his Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg. Rally leader Sebastien Loeb was a further 4.1 seconds behind in third.
Atkinson followed up his stage victory by setting the fastest split time over the opening four kilometres of the final stage in the event.
The young Australian maintained pace with the leading trio throughout the remainder of the stage to finish fourth, in the process recording his fifth top five stage finish of the day. Only an engine stall on the fourth stage of day, where he finished seventh, halted Atkinson from finishing each of today's stages inside the top five.
"After the dramas over the past couple of days it was good to get out there and have a good run today," said Atkinson.
"Today has been a very rewarding day, we can't complain with our stage times, we had some good ones, including a win which is always a good feeling.
"I felt very comfortable in the car all throughout the day, didn't push too hard, just concentrated on my lines and I think this consistency showed in today's times.
"The roads weren't as tough today as they had been over the past couple of days, but they still weren't very smooth, just a few less rocks around.
"Obviously through today's stages were also shorter so we didn't have to look after our tyres as much, they were pretty still pretty worn out by the end of the day though.
Atkinson believes that today's performance gives him as the Championship enters a string of rough and heat affected rallies throughout Cyprus, Turkey and Acropolis.
"After today I have got more confidence entering the next group of events," said Atkinson.
"We have three of four tough rallies ahead of us so it is not going to be easy, but we are better prepared for them after the experience we gained this weekend."
During the final day Citreon driver Sebastien Loeb maintained his strangle hold in the event, of which he led during all but the opening two stages, to claim his third victory of the year.
Atkinson's impressive performance during the final day lifted him nine positions from 27th spot at the start of the day to 18th. Such was the impressive pace over the final six stages the Australian was a total of 18.2 seconds faster than Loeb over the 66.32 kilometres.
Loeb's victory by just under a minute over Atkinson's Subaru team-mate Solberg elevated the Frenchman to the top of the Championship standings by one point over Solberg. Marcus Gronholm recovered from a rollover on the opening day finished third ahead of Markko Martin.
Harri Rovanpera, who was in third place entering the final day, failed to finish after breaking the suspension on his Mitsubishi during today's second stage. Skoda driver, Armin Schwarz, did not restart today's final leg as he was excluded from the event for receiving illegal outside assistance. Schwarz received a bottle of oil outside the allocated service exit time on yesterday's second leg, which is not permitted under FIA regulations.
The next round in the FIA World Rally Championship is the Cyprus Rally to be held around the seaside resort of Limassol on May 13-15.