ATKINSON SHARES IN A PIECE OF MOTORSPORT HISTORY Australian Chris Atkinson helped form a part of motorsport history at the Acropolis Rally of Greece last night by competing in the first Super Special Stage in the World Rally Championship held...
ATKINSON SHARES IN A PIECE OF MOTORSPORT HISTORY
Australian Chris Atkinson helped form a part of motorsport history at the Acropolis Rally of Greece last night by competing in the first Super Special Stage in the World Rally Championship held inside an Olympic Stadium aboard his Subaru Impreza WRC2005.
After many months of planning and six days of non stop construction, including the placing of a dual layer of asphalt covering 9000sqm, it was the high tech WRC cars rather than Olympic athletes who held centre stage at one of the most historic stadiums in the world.
In front of a capacity crowd of 50,000 the 91 competitors were paired against each other for two circulations around the tight 1.2km circuit which followed the French layout of the Stade de France, where last year's Race of Champions took place.
Courtesy of his seeding for this weekend's Acropolis Rally of Greece Atkinson was joined by Italian Gigi Galli to be the first pair of drivers to contest the stage.
"Before we got in the car you could hear the crowd cheering, it was an amazing feeling," said Atkinson.
"The noise of the engine cut out most of the atmosphere and we had to concentrate on the job at hand, but it looked like the fans where having a blast.
"To compete in a stage of the World Rally Championship inside a venue that is as iconic as an Olympic stadium is a real buzz."
With very little grip on the freshly laid surface added to the fact that Atkinson and his co-driver Glenn Macneall were pioneer on the circuit being amongst the first pair of drivers to tackle the tricky layout the time set by the Australian pair was the 19th fastest.
"By being a part in the first pair of drivers to go around the circuit at high speed only we didn't want to take too many risks as the rally could easily be lost rather than one in a stage such as this," said Atkinson.
"Now we have got the super special stage out of the way it is time to get down to business in the forests and aim for a solid run over the next three days to get a good result on the board."
Defending World Champion Sebastien Loeb set the fastest time on the Super Special Stage to take a narrow overnight lead from privateer Mark Higgins and Markko Martin. Atkinson's Subaru team-mates Petter Solberg and Stephane Sarrazin set the fifth and 20th fastest respectively.
The Acropolis Rally of Greece continues this afternoon (Australian time) with the continuation of the opening leg on the twisty mountain stages close to the historic town of Delphi.