WRC

Rally Finland: Chris Atkinson preview

ATKINSON SAYS EXPERIENCE IS THE KEY IN FINLAND Australian Chris Atkinson will this weekend tackle one of the toughest challenges since beginning his career with the Subaru World Rally Team, the highly rated Neste Rally of Finland. The Neste...

ATKINSON SAYS EXPERIENCE IS THE KEY IN FINLAND

Australian Chris Atkinson will this weekend tackle one of the toughest challenges since beginning his career with the Subaru World Rally Team, the highly rated Neste Rally of Finland.

The Neste Rally of Finland is one of the most popular events on the calendar. Based in the lake district surrounding Jyväskylä the Finnish event is a progression from one of the most historic rallies in the world, Rally of the Thousand Lakes.

To be successful at this event crews need a savvy combination of tactical knowledge, smooth and efficient technique and flat-out commitment to cope with the high speeds, fast kinks and mammoth jumps that litter the smooth, loose-surface stages.

Over the years, the event has been dominated by the Scandinavians, used to driving on roads like these since they were knee-high to a grasshopper. It is a rare sight to see others than Finns on the podium.

Atkinson set some impressive stage times during his first visit to Finland last year when he competed aboard a Tommi Makinen prepared Group N Impreza courtesy of the support from Telstra Rally Australia, Qantas and Network Ten.

By competing in last year's event it provided the young Australian with some experience and an understanding of what to expect when he tackles the high speed stages this weekend.

"When I competed here last year the aim was to get experience on some of the fastest and toughest roads in the world, this year is no different, but it is a different type of experience now that I am driving a WRC car," said Atkinson.

"Finland is one of those events that you need to do time and time again before you get close to the experts. The roads are pretty challenging, very fast, with lots of blind crests and jumps, but they're a type of road that I like. The speed doesn't faze me; I guess it's something I've become comfortable with after so many events in Australia where the roads are often just as fast.

"By competing in last year's event it has given me an understanding of what to expect in the stages, this will allow me to concentrate on my driving style and improving the set up of the car rather than learning every bit of the road whilst traveling at up to 200 km/h."

Following his recent solid result in Argentina where he recorded another top ten finish Atkinson and his West Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall arrived in Finland late last week to complete a test day with the team aboard their Subaru Impreza WRC.

"Friday's test went very well, we did a fair few miles in the car on roads that are similar to what we will be competing on. I felt very comfortable in the car, which will hopefully enable me to push a little harder on the rally and show some good speed," said Atkinson.

"If we can get to the end and complete the event while maintaining a solid pace without too many dramas I am confident that we will be able to gain another good result for us and the Subaru team."

84 crews are expected to take to the start ramp on Thursday night to contest the opening 2.06km Killeri Super Special Stage.

Courtesy of his Championship lead Sebastien Loeb is the number one seed for the event and will therefore be the first driver to take to the stages in the forest on Friday morning. Atkinson is seeded 15th. There are a total of 27 WRC spec cars entered for this weekend's event, the highest number entered since the beginning of the year.

Across the three legs in the Neste Rally of Finland the crews will contest 21 stages across a total of 355 competitive kilometres.

Marcus Gronholm has won four of the past five events in Finland. Only thee drivers from outside of the Nordic region have won the event (Spaniard Carlos Sainz - 1990, Frenchman Didier Auriol - 1992 and Markko Martin - 2003).

The time in Finland is seven hours behind AEST.

-car-

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Series WRC
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Didier Auriol , Marcus Gronholm , Sébastien Loeb , Chris Atkinson , Markko Martin