WRC

Cyprus Rally: Chris Atkinson leg one summary

Subaru's Chris Atkinson was forced onto the sidelines during the opening leg in Rally Cyprus with a clutch problem mid way through the day. Atkinson started the day by setting a comfortable pace during the opening stage to finish seventh fastest.

Subaru's Chris Atkinson was forced onto the sidelines during the opening leg in Rally Cyprus with a clutch problem mid way through the day.

Atkinson started the day by setting a comfortable pace during the opening stage to finish seventh fastest. The 38.31km stage was the longest stage of the event and the twisty terrain kept the average speeds down, it was also the longest time-wise in the entire Championship.

As temperatures rose towards 35 degrees Atkinson maintained his position on the narrow, rough and rutted roads during the second stage which produced the slowest average speeds in the Championship.

Despite suffering a slipping clutch just over half way through the 15.00km stage the 25-year-old Australian and his co-driver Glenn Macneall finished seventh fastest aboard their Subaru Impreza.

On the road section between stages the clutch problem worsened forcing Atkinson onto the sidelines prior to the start of stage three.

"We were going at a comfortable pace and knew the roads would be rough and cut up. Perhaps through the first stage we were almost too safe, then on the second stage, the clutch started to slip about 6km from the finish. We managed to get to the end, but after that we weren't able to go any further," said Atkinson.

"Once things had cooled down, we were able to drive on slowly, but there was big question mark about the third stage and, as we'd lost too much time, we had to retire.

"We will start again tomorrow for the experience. It's very, very rough out there and not very nice to drive at all."

The Subaru team completed the necessary repairs throughout the afternoon and Atkinson will restart in tomorrow's second leg under the SUPERally regulations.

The Australian will receive a time penalty of 20 minutes by not completing the final four stages of today's opening leg.

While Atkinson admits the conditions are the toughest he has faced in his career the 25-year-old Australian wasn't phased by today's conditions and looks forward to expanding his experience in the tough conditions over the remaining two days.

"The roads are the worst that I have driven on in my life," said Atkinson.

"There is no denying the fact that the conditions out there are tough, real tough. The roads are rough and rutted but they are the same for everyone.

"We were going at a solid and comfortable pace today, almost perfect for the conditions with the aim of getting to the end without taking too many risks.

"We were just unlucky and could have been in a really good position by simply getting to the end, but that's life.

"We will restart tomorrow to further our experience in the car and these tough conditions as preparation for the next two events that are predicted to be very similar to this one."

Atkinson wasn't alone with his dramas throughout the day with Finnish driver Marcus Gronholm being forced out after only 25km with a broken cam belt in his engine. Markko Martin also suffered a puncture and rear suspension damage on the same stage to lose over a minute on the rally leaders.

Continuing the rate of attrition and mechanical problems Francois Duval dropped down the order on stage three with throttle problems as Toni Gardemeister's run was hampered by a puncture on stage four of the day. Harri Rovanpera also encountered transmission problems on the same stage.

After holding down second place for the majority of the opening day Atkinson's Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg was another to endure problems with a turbo problem cost him time on stages four and five. The problem halted him from starting the final stage of the day.

Above all the drama it was defending World Champion Sebastien Loeb who stood tall to dominate the opening leg by winning all but one of the six stages held throughout the day.

Entering the second day Loeb holds a commanding lead over the privateer entries of Manfred Stohl and Henning Solberg.

Tomorrow's second leg consists of six stages across a total of 109.56 competitive kilometres. The first car will begin the opening stage of the leg at 8:48am local time.

-ca-

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