ATKINSON READY TO FLY THE ANZAC FLAG When it comes to sport, be it competing for the Bledisloe Cup, a game of cricket, Netball or even the under 10's marble Championship, it is fair to say Australians and Kiwis very rarely see eye to ...
ATKINSON READY TO FLY THE ANZAC FLAG
When it comes to sport, be it competing for the Bledisloe Cup, a game of cricket, Netball or even the under 10's marble Championship, it is fair to say Australians and Kiwis very rarely see eye to eye.
However, if an Australian or New Zealand sports person is taking on the world in their chosen sport, both nations claim them as their own.
This weekend Australian Chris Atkinson flies the ANZAC flag as he competes for the Subaru World Rally Team in round four of the World Rally Championship throughout in New Zealand.
The event will be Atkinson's third with the Subaru team and given the impressive bursts of speed the 25-year-old has shown during his first two outings, it is a case of aiming for more of the same this weekend.
"The target for this weekend is pretty similar to what we aimed for in Mexico, set some good stage times and be within a certain time from the leaders," said Atkinson.
"Overall I'm pretty happy with our progress so far, but it would be nice to get an overall finish. So far I think we have surprised a few people, but in this game you have to make a name for yourself otherwise you can fall pretty quickly.
"It was disappointing not to get the result in Mexico, but we all shared the disappointment as a team, and this team is a team in the real sense, we share the glory and share the disappointment together."
While Atkinson competed in the Propecia Rally New Zealand for the first time last year aboard a Group N Production Subaru, his co-driver fellow Australian Glenn Macneall has competed in the event on ten occasions. Last year Herridge claimed the Group N victory alongside Dean Herridge.
"Glenn's experience will be of great assistance, just as it was last year in Rally OZ," said Atkinson.
"I think our road position of 13th will play into our hands on the first day and hopefully the reverse order of the top 15 on the remaining two days will be good for us."
Atkinson's Subaru World Rally team mate Petter Solberg has won the previous two event in the World Rally Championship and is the defending Champion of New Zealand.
"Petter has had a couple of good events and won here last year. We have had no testing since Mexico, but we are both chasing the same improvements in the set up of the new car. While Petter will be aiming for the outright win our aim will be to get more experience and adapt to the new car more," said Atkinson.
"Although Championship points would be good, our main focus is to get more experience and have to do all the stages before coming back next year to push for a good outright result.
"When you look at the big picture I am still very much in the early days of my WRC career and you are only as good as your last race. There are 13 races to go in the Championship, it is a long way to the end of the season."
Atkinson has spent the last two weeks in Australia training on a daily basis while re-adapting himself to the sunshine on the Gold Coast.
With the New Zealand event being virtually a home event for Atkinson there will be plenty of Australian support for the 25-year-old including his parents, John and Christine and his brother, Ben, who will be making the flight across the Tasman.
The 2005 Propecia Rally New Zealand begins on Thursday night with the ceremonial state in Auckland followed by three days of action on the North Island of New Zealand.