ATKINSON EAGERLY AWAITS SARDINIAN SOJOURN With the speed that Australian Chris Atkinson has shown over his opening three events in the World Rally Championship he could be mistaken for an experienced campaigner. However, the 25-year-old Gold...
ATKINSON EAGERLY AWAITS SARDINIAN SOJOURN
With the speed that Australian Chris Atkinson has shown over his opening three events in the World Rally Championship he could be mistaken for an experienced campaigner.
However, the 25-year-old Gold Coaster will be one of the most inexperienced WRC drivers in the field when he takes to the start line in next weekend's Supermag Rallye d'Italia Sardinia.
After joining the Subaru World Rally Team at the start of the year one of his goals was to set the fastest time on a stage during one of 15 rounds he will compete in during 2005.
Atkinson achieved this aim in only his third event earlier this month in New Zealand, not once but twice. By virtue of his two fastest stage times in New Zealand Atkinson became the first Australian to win a stage of the Championship since Ross Dunkerton in 1992.
"When you look back, we have exceeded the goals that have been set by the team so far, especially when we won those two stages in New Zealand," said Atkinson.
"While it was good to get the stage wins it is the bigger picture that we are aiming for. To consistently be on the pace and then the results will follow.
"Despite winning the two stages in New Zealand the team is maintaining the same approach with us that they have all year, asking us to focus on our speed and individual stages rather than putting pressure on us to achieve an overall result."
After spending a week in Australia Atkinson and his West Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall eagerly await their next challenge in Sardinia, Italy next weekend.
In previous years the Italy's round of the World Rally Championship has been held around Sanremo but this year marks the second time that the event will head to the sun-drenched island of Sardinia. This change means the event will take place on fine, sandy gravel roads that Atkinson is more familiar with rather than the sealed asphalt roads previously used in Sanremo.
This year's event is based in the luxury resort of Porto Cerve and takes place on quick, flowing coastal roads to the north of the island with an intriguing mix of medium to fast corners.
Atkinson's Subaru team-mate Petter Solberg won the inaugural Supermag Rallye d'Italia held in Sardinia last year.
"With the event only running for the first time last year it means that the rest of the competition hasn't got years of experience over the same stage which gives me a bit of confidence for a good result this weekend," said Atkinson.
"The roads are very narrow and technical, from what I have seen of last year's event there are a fair few unexposed rocks just off the road so you have to be right on the money with your notes.
"Petter had a good run there last year to take the win which has given us a good base set-up to start with for this year's event. With a new car that we are continually improving and getting more speed out of it with every event I'm confident that everything will fall into place for a positive result this weekend."
There are 70 crews that will take to the ramp for the ceremonial start in Porto Cervo on Thursday evening.
The competitive action will begin on Friday April 29 with the opening leg to be conducted over six stages that consist of 139.70 competitive kilometres before continuing over the weekend with the final two legs of the event.
Solberg is the defending Champion of Supermag Rallye d'Italia Sardinia and also the current Championship leader with a one point lead over Sebastien Loeb with Markko Martin a further two points back in third position.