WRC

Acropolis Rally: Chris Atkinson preview

TOUGH TEST AWAITS ATKINSON IN ACROPOLIS Following a trio of rough and tough events in Italy, Cyprus and Turkey during the past two months Australian Chris Atkinson compete in one of the longest standing events on the World Rally Championship ...

TOUGH TEST AWAITS ATKINSON IN ACROPOLIS

Following a trio of rough and tough events in Italy, Cyprus and Turkey during the past two months Australian Chris Atkinson compete in one of the longest standing events on the World Rally Championship calendar, the Acropolis Rally of Greece this weekend.

The legendary Acropolis event, round eight of the Championship, begins on Thursday night with a 2.4km Super Special Stage inside the Athens Olympic stadium before heading to the rough, twisty mountain stages close to the historic town of Delphi the following day.

With rally headquarters and service park based in the town of Lamia, approximately two hours west of Athens, the fast but rock-strewn stages combined with the blistering heat and choking dust ensures that the event is considered the toughest on the calendar.

Just like six of the previous seven events Atkinson hasn't competed in the Acropolis Rally of Greece before, he has however taken in the atmosphere and conditions when he was a spectator at the event in 2003.

"I've only been to the Rally of Greece once before, and then only as a spectator, but from what I saw, the mixture of conditions will make the stages good fun to drive," said Atkinson.

"I have spent a fair bit of time recently watching the videos of the rally from the past few years along with absorbing a lot of the data from the team to learn as much about the event as possible.

"The roads appear to be a little bit better than the last two rallies, slightly faster and more suited to my style. Although I know there will be some very rough parts there also appears to be some smoother sections, but I will only get the full picture after we complete the reconnaissance on Tuesday and Wednesday."

Buoyed by the experience he has gained throughout the previous few rough events and the fact that his Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg won the corresponding round last year Atkinson is confident of a strong result this weekend.

"The past three events have been very tough and unfortunately I haven't had netted a good overall result, but when you have a good look at the individual stage and split times they are very encouraging," said Atkinson.

"I have taken full advantage of the Superally regulations so far this year that allowed me to restart an event when I failed to finish one of the opening two legs of a rally. This helped me gain some extra experience, but I'm hoping I won't need to use the benefits of Superally in Greece.

"My main objective for Greece is to run at a solid pace all weekend, not push too hard, and get a good overall result," said Atkinson.

After returning to his Banbury base following the Rally of Turkey two weeks ago Atkinson and his co-driver Glenn Macneall were joined by Solberg's co-driver Phil Mills and the team's fitness trainer, John Mills for a 35 kilometre mountain bike ride through the Welsh countryside last weekend.

Courtesy of his four straight victories, Sebastien Loeb leads the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers on 55 points ahead of Solberg on 42. Markko Martin is third on 38, six clear of Marcus Gronholm.

Solberg won last year's event in Greece ahead of Sebastien Loeb and Harri Rovanpera.

The 2005 Acropolis Rally of Greece consists of 19 stages across 349.57 competitive kilometres.

The local time in Greece is seven hours behind Australian Eastern Standard Time.

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Series WRC
Drivers John Mills , Harri Rovanpera , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Chris Atkinson , Markko Martin