TARMAC TUITION CONTINUES FOR ATKINSON Australian Chris Atkinson furthered his experience on the unfamiliar tarmac surface at Rallye de France in Corsica by showing some impressive improvement aboard his Subaru Impreza WRC over the three days...
TARMAC TUITION CONTINUES FOR ATKINSON
Australian Chris Atkinson furthered his experience on the unfamiliar tarmac surface at Rallye de France in Corsica by showing some impressive improvement aboard his Subaru Impreza WRC over the three days of the event.
With the rally being Atkinson's second on a sealed surface in his career he was continually learning to adapt to the unfamiliar surface which was highlighted by the improving stage times through rally.
Unfortunately Atkinson's opening day was cut short due to a mechanical problem which was initially believed to be a clutch problem but was eventually traced to a broken front right driveshaft which could not be fixed in time for the start of the second stage of the day.
When Atkinson and his West Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall returned under Superrally regulations on the second day they began the day by being slightly conservative but increased their pace as their confidence improved throughout the day.
"The mechanical problem on the opening day was obviously disappointing and when we got back out there in the second leg it was virtually like restarting the rally. With the chance of an overall result gone the aim was to use the final two days as a test," said Atkinson.
"We took it pretty easy in the two morning stages but when we felt comfortable we picked up the pace in the afternoon and improved our times over the repeated stages by almost 20 seconds."
With a full day under his belt Atkinson grew in confidence which was highlighted on the first stage of the final leg yesterday where he set the eighth fastest time, less than a second per kilometre behind his Subaru Team-mate Petter Solberg and eventual rally winner Sebastien Loeb.
Unfortunately for Atkinson his joy was short lived with the 25-year-old running wide on a left hand corner 14km into the next stage and was forced to retire due to being "beached" on the side of the road.
"I started off the day well and the split times during the start of the second stage were also good but then I ran wide on a sweeping left hander and got stuck on the side of the road," said Atkinson.
"There was no damage to the car but we simply couldn't get it back onto the road, we tried everything to get back on but not even a heap of spectators could help us.
"It is a disappointing end to a rally which promised a lot from a learning perspective, but looking at the bigger picture this has been a very useful rally for Glenn and I. We've learned heaps and basically improved our pace on every stage.
"The past couple of days gave us a good opportunity to test some different set-ups and finding the limit, like we did today, is part of that process. I'm satisfied that the lessons we have learned will help us significantly both next week and in the future."
Loeb was simply untouchable throughout the weekend in his home rally taking a dominant victory ahead of Toni Gardemeister and Atkinson's Subaru team-mate's Solberg and Stephane Sarrazin.
For the first time in his WRC career Atkinson faces back-to-back rallies with Rallye de Catalunya-Costa Duarada set to begin this Friday in Spain.
The Spanish event is the quickest asphalt rally on the calendar, characterised by wide roads with fast and sweeping corners. There are also some slower and more technical sections higher up in the mountains.