Australian Chris Atkinson has recorded the third top ten of his World Rally Championship career by finishing ninth in the Rally of Argentina over the weekend. The Argentinean event was the eighth rally for Atkinson and his West Australian ...
Australian Chris Atkinson has recorded the third top ten of his World Rally Championship career by finishing ninth in the Rally of Argentina over the weekend.
The Argentinean event was the eighth rally for Atkinson and his West Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall since the pair made their debut with the Subaru World Rally Team at the Rally of Sweden in February.
Atkinson was placed as high as seventh during the opening leg on Friday and the young Australian maintained his impressive pace in the trying Argentinean conditions to hold ninth position for the majority of the event.
"There was so much water and mud on the road - I think everyone was off the road at various times as it was so slippery. I remember we were going backwards while flat out in first gear at one point during the second day!" said Atkinson.
"I'm pleased that we were able to set good times throughout the weekend and get so close to the top of the timesheets, especially against some of the big names."
One of the highlights for Atkinson throughout the weekend was setting the third fastest stage time on the final stage of the second leg, the 10.95km Valle Hermoso -- Casa Grande stage.
Today's final leg comprised of five stages across 64.13 competitive kilometres, including two passes across the most famous stage in Argentina and one of the most famous in the Championship, El Condor. This 16.82 kilometre stage included a variety of tests for Atkinson including a high altitude, hairpin corners, sprint sections and blind crests -- all of which he tackled with confidence to record the 9th and 7th fastest times.
Of the 22 stages contested in the event Atkinson recorded times inside the top ten on 17 occasions.
After being forced out of the opening leg in the previous four events for a variety of reasons the weekend's result has provided Atkinson with a timely confidence boost as he heads into the second half of the Championship.
"All weekend my pace has been good and I'm pleased that I can set good times against the top guys while still driving very comfortably," said Atkinson.
"The aim for the weekend was to get to the end of the event to gain a solid overall result and we achieved this goal. To go faster in Argentina you need experience, the weekend for me was all about getting confidence.
"I now look forward to Finland with more confidence and a further understanding of the car, since I've done that event before I am hopeful of building upon what we have learnt this weekend."
Defending World Champion Sebastien Loeb took out the event to extend his winning streak to extend his winning streak to six events in a row. Finnish driver Marcus Gronholm finished 26.1 seconds in arrears of Loeb. After leading early in the event Atkinson's Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg endured brake problems during leg two and finished third.
By virtue of his six-straight victories Loeb has extended his lead in the Championship to be 27 points clear of Solberg in second place, Gronholm is a further three points back in third place.