WRC

Monte Carlo: Atkinson learned while watching

Atkinson Soaks Up The Info in Monte Australian Chris Atkinson had his first feel of the World Rally Championship from inside the Subaru World Rally team over the weekend when the 2005 Championship kicked off in Monte Carlo. While Atkinson ...

Atkinson Soaks Up The Info in Monte

Australian Chris Atkinson had his first feel of the World Rally Championship from inside the Subaru World Rally team over the weekend when the 2005 Championship kicked off in Monte Carlo.

While Atkinson wasn't actually competing in the event he had undertaken the reconnaissance of the course as a part of his preparation for the debut in his Subaru Impreza WRC2004 in Sweden next month. He then spent the weekend soaking up all the information that transpires at Subaru's rally headquarters throughout the event.

Brake problems plagued Atkinson's team mate, 2003 World Champion, Petter Solberg on the opening day of the 73rd running of the Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo forcing the Norwegian to settle for fourth place in the opening leg just under a minute and a half behind leader and defending Champion Sebasten Loeb.

As Loeb held on to his lead during the second leg of the event Solberg closed in on the top three to finish less than ten second's outside a podium position.

After finishing the opening day inside the top ten Stephane Sarrazin's promising start with the team continued, with the Frenchman getting more familiar with his car and setting some competitive split times. Although his day came to a premature end when he broke a steering arm, he re-started on the final day under new FIA regulations intent on gaining more experience at the wheel of his Impreza WRC2004.

Early on the final day Solberg charged through the stages to set the fastest stage time on the opening two stages of the day and close the gap on the leaders.

Special Stage 12 proved to be a turning point for several of the leading contenders with both third placed Marcus Gronholm and fourth placed Solberg losing a wheel after hitting the wall. Gronholm was able to limp back to service and have his car repaired while Solberg was forced to withdraw his Subaru Impreza WRC2004.

"I'm extremely disappointed. It seems like this sort of luck is with me every time in Monte Carlo. No mistakes all rally, we're catching up places, everything's perfect and then this," said Solberg

"What's so frustrating is that I was so close to getting a good result and wasn't pushing over the limit."

Loeb sealed his third consecutive Monte Carlo victory by setting the fastest stage times on the final two stages in his Citreon. Four different manufacturers filled the top four spots with Ford's Toni Gardemeister finishing second followed by Giles Panizzi in his Mitsubishi and Peugeot driver Markko Martin.

Atkinson's Subaru team mate Sarrazin recovered from his day two dramas to elevate himself up ten positions during the final day to finish 14th.

Atkinson and the team will head back to their Banbury base in England today to begin preparations for next month's Uddeholm Rally of Sweden where Atkinson will make his debut in a Subaru Impreza WRC2004.

"It was certainly an interesting weekend with the rally living up to its tough reputation and even catching some of the best out," said Atkinson.

"Throughout the weekend my main role with the team was to watch the weather in the stages and assist with tyre choices in stages that were up to 100 kilometres away from the service park, it was quite an experience.

"Being a part of the team from the sidelines was a good preparation for me, but now I can't wait to get behind the wheel in Sweden."

-ar/bam-

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Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Toni Gardemeister , Chris Atkinson , Markko Martin