For the second WRC rally in succession Chris Atkinson finished in the points-scoring positions, although the final leg of the rally was a dramatic one for the Australian. He started the day in fine fashion by setting the fastest time on SS16. It...
For the second WRC rally in succession Chris Atkinson finished in the points-scoring positions, although the final leg of the rally was a dramatic one for the Australian. He started the day in fine fashion by setting the fastest time on SS16.
It was his first WRC stage win on a snow rally and closely followed his first fastest time on an asphalt rally, achieved on last month's Rallye Monte Carlo. But two stages later he ran wide into a ditch and damaged the rear left corner of his Impreza WRC. The time lost meant he dropped from fifth to eighth overall and had to complete the last two stages of the rally at a reduced pace.
SS16: 0818hrs Backa 1 (30.96km)
From 0630hrs crews left Karlstad to head to Hagfors and the first
of the day's five stages. After two relatively mild days, on which
temperatures hovered around minus eight degrees Celsius, Sunday was
significantly colder and at the time control before SS16 it was minus
21 degrees. The brand new 30km Backa stage was the setting for Chris
Atkinson's best result of the rally. The Australian set the fastest
time -- his first of the event -- and moved ahead of Daniel Carlsson
into fifth place overall. "That was a new stage for all of us, so we
went into it with the same amount of experience as everybody else,"
said Atkinson at the end of the stage. "I tried to have a steady run
through, so I'm pleased with the time."
Fastest time: Atkinson (Subaru) 16:31.6
SS17: 0915hrs Malta 1 (11.25km)
The second stage of the morning loop was Malta, one of the shortest
of the rally, and a test that has remained unchanged for many years.
Like Backa before it, Malta was a fresh road for the competitors and
conditions were good, with a light dusting of snow on top of a hard ice
base. For the first time this weekend Petter's brother Henning Solberg
was the quickest driver, stopping the clock at 5min 42.2sec. Chris
Atkinson had a trouble-free run to set the fifth-fastest time, and
slightly increase his lead over Daniel Carlsson to 2.9sec.
Fastest time: H.Solberg (Ford) 5:42.2
SS18: 1054hrs Backa 2 (30.96km)
After a 30-minute service, crews set off to repeat the previous loop of
stages. But in the two hours since the first run, conditions had changed
significantly. The temperature had risen to minus 15 degrees Celsius
and the passage of so many cars had made the road surface rougher, with
patches of gravel replacing the ice in many of the braking zones and
corners. Unfortunately the tricky conditions got the better of Chris
Atkinson who after 18km slid off the road and into a ditch. The impact
damaged the left-hand rear corner of his Subaru and filled the radiator
with snow. Despite bent rear suspension, Atkinson finished the stage,
but lost 56sec to the leaders, and dropped to seventh overall.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 16:30.0
SS19: 1157hrs Malta 2 (11.25km)
The last proper stage of the rally was a difficult one for Atkinson,
who lost more time as a result of the accident on the previous test.
"We tried to fix the damage at the stage end but there was no chance
really," said Atkinson. "We had no choice but to drive through this one
at a reduced pace." Atkinson's time through the 11km section was 1min
20sec slower than that of stage winner Marcus Gronholm, and he dropped
another place to eighth overall. With just the 1.9km Super Special to
go, Atkinson would have to carefully judge his pace to protect the car
and keep ninth-placed Mads Ostberg behind him.
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 05:44.1
SS20: 1400hrs Super Special Stage Karlstad 2 (1.90km)
The final stage of the rally was a return trip to the Super Special
in Karlstad, and in front of thousands of spectators, the WRC crews
completed the figure of eight loop two at a time. There were no last
stage upsets for the leading competitors, and Chris Atkinson brought his
damaged Impreza through the stage to hold on to the final points-scoring
position. "After being so steady, it's annoying that one small mistake
cost us three places," said Atkinson. "But I'm glad we managed to
salvage one point."
Fastest time: Gronholm (Ford) 1:40.7
Subaru World Rally Team managing director, Richard Taylor: "It has been a frustrating day for Chris. What looked like a strong fifth place for him turned into eighth place. It's still a championship point, but it is not the target we had set ourselves for this event. However, we've learnt a little bit more about the car and the BFGoodrich tyres here and can put that to good use on Rally Norway in a few days."
Chris Atkinson: "The mistake on SS18 was disappointing, especially for the team, because we were on course to bring home three more championship points. But we've been encouraged by our pace here this weekend, we chose the right strategy of making a cautious start and what happened was just one those unfortunate things. Now it is important for us to look ahead to Rally Norway and try to get the best result we can there."
News from BFGoodrich
Matthieu Bonardel, BFGoodrich rally manager: "Our second rally with the Subaru World Rally Team was quite different in terms of conditions from what we had three weeks ago in Monte Carlo. It was unfortunate that Petter couldn't finish the rally, because he was fighting with the leaders, but we are delighted that both he and Chris could demonstrate the potential of the BFGoodrich tyre and the Impreza WRC by setting fastest stage times. Now we are looking forward to Rally Norway, where we can expect even more snow and ice and will use the studded BFGoodrich tyres again."
The next event
The start of round three of the World Rally Championship is just four days away and will be a special occasion for Petter Solberg. For the first time, Subaru's star will be able to compete on home ground, because Rally Norway is making its debut on the WRC calendar. The event will be based in the agricultural city of Hamar, which is about 130km north of the country's capital, Oslo.