Chris Atkinson made a stunning debut in the World Rally Championship at the Propecia Rally of New Zealand this weekend outpacing many of his more experienced rivals before a minor accident ended his event on the second stage of the final ...
Chris Atkinson made a stunning debut in the World Rally Championship at the Propecia Rally of New Zealand this weekend outpacing many of his more experienced rivals before a minor accident ended his event on the second stage of the final day.
Throughout the opening day Atkinson adaptedwell to the tricky New Zealand roads running as high as 15th overall and fifth in the highly competitive Group N class in his Prodrive built Subaru WRX Sti.
Late in the day his progress was hampered by dust from the car in front of him on the longest stage of the rally slowing him considerably. At the end of the opening day of competition he remained inside the top 20 overall in 18th and 8th in Group N.
The following day Atkinson and his brother and co-driver Ben were confident of movingup the order only to be hampered by an mysterious electrical problem that was eventually identified as a broken electrical coil.
After his team fixed the problem aboard his Subaru WRX Sti Atkinson pushed on setting stage times comparable with the leaders of the Group N category.
"In the final two stages last night the car began to miss and run on three cylinders under 5000 rpm," said Atkinson.
"Once it was fixed I was able to drive the car properly again and as can be seen by ourtimes without these problems we would be right up there."
Starting the final day with some confidence under his belt Chris was once again on the pace during the first stage of the day.
Disaster struck for the Atkinsons on the second stage of the day when they clipped a bank on the inside of a turn sending them off the road on the other side and tipping his car onto it's side ending his event.
"I touched the bank on the inside of the curb just ever so slightly but it was enough tospear me over the other side and down the ditch," said Atkinson.
"The car was slightly damaged but nothing serious, mainly just a bit of panel beating.
"Although we didn't finish we showed some good pace and it was a great learning experience competing against the best in the world.
"One of the things that I did notice over the weekend was the fact of how strong Australian Rallying is with Dean (Herridge) and Cody (Crocker -- current Aust. Champ) being at the front of Group N allweekend."
The outright honours in the 2004 Propecia Rally of New Zealand went to Petter Solberg ahead of Marcus Gronholm and Markko Martin.
Australian Dean Herridge took out the Group N honours.
The Atkinson pair will return to Australian on Monday before flying out to China for the second round of the China National Championship on Wednesday.