WRC

Rally New Zealand: Chris Atkinson leg one summary

STAGE WINS FOR ATKINSON IN NEW ZEALAND Australian Chris Atkinson continued his impressive debut year in the World Rally Championship with the Subaru World Rally Team claiming his first stage win in New Zealand today. After surviving an early...

STAGE WINS FOR ATKINSON IN NEW ZEALAND

Australian Chris Atkinson continued his impressive debut year in the World Rally Championship with the Subaru World Rally Team claiming his first stage win in New Zealand today.

After surviving an early scare when he spun on the second stage of the day the Gold Coaster "cheered" himself up by going on to set the fastest time on the 11.24km stage three.

"The spin cost us and put us back in the overall positions so I cheered myself up with the stage win,'' said Atkinson.

His time in stage three was 1.7 seconds ahead of defending World Champion Sebastien Loeb.

While it could be expected that some driver's may be overjoyed with such a result after so little experience at the world's highest level Atkinson's remained level headed and focused on the job he has got at hand this weekend.

"It was good, I smiled and turned and said ''well done'' to Glen and let's keep going and get some more. Our position on the road did help a bit,'' Atkinson said.

"I have never driven on a slippery gravel surface like this in a World Rally Championship car and I was just trying to work out the grip levels as I went. I think we have been doing everything right except for that one mistake on stage two.

"Over the next few days I am confident that we can keep running at the same pace, make no mistakes, and just keep chipping away at the guys around us.

''Obviously Petter (Solberg) and Loeb are going well and it is going to take a bit to get to them but there is no need for us to rush, there is no need to go and make a silly mistake, our main aim is to finish the rally and get the experience."

By virtue of his second stage win of the say on the eight and final stage Atkinson sealed fifth position in the opening leg. His time on the stage was 2.0 seconds clear of Francois Duval.

"It is good to finish the day like this. The final stage had a lot of gravel on it and worked out well for us in our road position," said Atkinson.

"I think we can continue at this pace comfortably for the next two days, we are not going to go out after the guys at the front. We can make some finer adjustments to the car and make it 100% but at the moment I think our main improvements can come from gaining more experience and hopefully we can get a good result in the process."

Entering tomorrow's second day Loeb leads the event with a lead of 23.1 seconds clear of Marcus Gronholm who is closely followed by Francois Duval. Atkinson's Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg is fourth with Atkinson a further 22.6 seconds behind in fifth.

Atkinson will be the 11th car to take to the start line for tomorrow's second leg.

-ar-

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