EARLY END FOR ATKINSON ON DAY TWO IN ITALY For the second day running Australian Chris Atkinson experienced first hand the rough and often treacherous conditions that crews are faced with during the Supermag Rally Italia Sardinia. Atkinson ...
EARLY END FOR ATKINSON ON DAY TWO IN ITALY
For the second day running Australian Chris Atkinson experienced first hand the rough and often treacherous conditions that crews are faced with during the Supermag Rally Italia Sardinia.
Atkinson failed to finish the opening leg of the event yesterday when he lost a wheel after hitting a large rock on stage five of the day but was able to restart today under SUPERally regulations with the aim of furthering his experience aboard a WRC spec Subaru Impreza.
Today's second leg consisted of five stages covering a total of 144.01 competitive kilometres beginning with the two longest stages in the event which proved demanding for a number of crews.
During the opening stage ex-Subaru works driver Mikko Hirvonen, who was third overnight, broke two wheels off his Ford Focus while Daniel Carlsson went off the road, got stuck in the sand and was unable to rejoin. Xavier Pons was another victim and ended up blocking the narrow and twisty stage resulting in nominal times for the following drivers, including Atkinson who is in his fourth event with the Subaru World Rally team.
The following stage, stage eight, is the longest and most difficult stage of the event with 38 kilometres of very narrow and rough roads set to test the field. With every car that passed the roads become more rutted and harder on the cars and crews.
In this stage Atkinson was setting a good pace and trading split times with the experienced Toni Gardemeister who is making his 75th WRC start this weekend.
Eight kilometres from the end of the stage, that is more typical to a safari rally, Atkinson hit a rock in the road damaging the right front ball joint on his Subaru.
Atkinson and co-driver Glenn Macneall attempted to complete the stage but the damaged was too severe and they were forced to withdraw from the leg.
"Things haven't turned out in our favour again today," said Atkinson.
"The first stage cancelled after a few crashes and in the 39 kilometre tough second stage we were running quite well. I felt very comfortable and wasn't pushing too hard but at about the 30 'k' mark we had a strange problem with front right ball joint which forced us to loose the steering which put us out for the second time in as many days.
"While we were back in today just for the experience it was is disappointing to go out like we did, but there are many others who have suffered similar incidents this weekend.
"The roads are very tough out there with a lot of rocks in the way and it is quite easy to lose something, even just through wear and tear on the car. If people saw the size of the rocks and the speed we go over them they'd be simply amazed."
The 25-year-old Australian will restart in tomorrow's third and final leg.
Atkinson's Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg remains in contention for the victory in second place, 55.2 seconds behind leader Sebastien Loeb. Harri Rovanpera is third followed by Marcus Gronholm who has made a remarkable recovery after yesterday's roll over to be in contention for a podium finish.
Tomorrow's third and final leg consists of six short stages to be held over 66.32 competitive kilometres west of the rally base in Olbia. The first stage begins at 7:16am local time (3:16pm AEST).