ATKINSON ON TRACK FOR HIS BEST RESULT OF THE YEAR Australian Chris Atkinson is closing in on his best result since joining the World Rally Championship (WRC) at the start of the year with the Subaru World Rally Team by challenging for a top...
ATKINSON ON TRACK FOR HIS BEST RESULT OF THE YEAR
Australian Chris Atkinson is closing in on his best result since joining the World Rally Championship (WRC) at the start of the year with the Subaru World Rally Team by challenging for a top five finish in Rally Japan, round 13 of the WRC.
During the opening day yesterday Atkinson and his West Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall rewrote the record books by becoming the first Australian crew to lead a round of the WRC in recent history. They also set the fastest time on two of the nine stages contested throughout the day.
Entering today's second leg in fourth place and only the previous three World Champions in front of him Atkinson set the tenth fastest time during the opening stage on a surface that was rapidly becoming rougher with every car passing over it in the wet conditions.
"This morning wasn't as good as yesterday morning but we were still fifth in a round of the World Championship, so it is good position to be in considering the amount of experience we have in a WRC car and are against the top drivers in the world," said Atkinson.
"The roads during the opening half of the day were extremely rough and were made worse for me when the car wasn't handling as good as what I know it can be."
Throughout the day 25-year-old Atkinson set times inside the top ten on all but one of twelve stages contested to be engaged in a titanic battle for the fourth through to seventh positions with Francois Duval, Gigi Galli and Harri Rovanpera.
"At the start of the weekend our aim was to achieve a top six result, if we can achieve that goal it will be a pleasing result," said Atkinson.
"While it was good to lead the rally and set times amongst the best guys in the world yesterday we are here to get as much experience possible and not about to throw away a possible good result by pushing too hard.
"I am looking forward to the battle tomorrow as I have competed on all of the stages over the past two years so I know them very well, where as many of today's stages were new for this year's event."
Atkinson's best result to date is seventh place in Rally New Zealand during April. The best finish by an Australian in the WRC in recent history is third by West Australian Ross Dunkerton at Rally New Zealand in 1992.
Atkinson's Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg leads the rally ahead of Marcus Gronholm and Sebsatien Loeb who remains on track to take an unassailable lead in the quest for his second World Driver's Championship. Atkinson is sixth but only 11 seconds behind fourth placed Gigi Galli.
Australian Champion Cody Crocker is also competing in Japan aboard a Group N (Production) specification Impreza. Crocker is second in Group N behind fellow Subaru driver Toshi Arai and 15th outright.
Tomorrow's final leg consists of five stages across a total of 85.94 competitive kilometres and is the shortest of the three-day event.
The local time in Japan is one hour behind AEST.