Australian Chris Atkinson completed a successful tarmac debut aboard a World Rally spec Subaru Impreza in the latest round of the World Rally Championship, the OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland over the weekend. Atkinson, 25, showed continued ...
Australian Chris Atkinson completed a successful tarmac debut aboard a World Rally spec Subaru Impreza in the latest round of the World Rally Championship, the OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland over the weekend.
Atkinson, 25, showed continued improvement throughout the three days of competition contested around Germany's oldest city, Trier, coming within one spot of claiming his fourth top ten finish of the year.
Such was the improvement by the young Queenslander and his West Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall throughout the weekend that the pair recorded times inside the top ten in six of the final 13 stages of the event.
The times set by Atkinson were comparable to many of his more experienced rivals, especially over the final two days where he consistently set times that were less than a second a kilometre behind World Champion, and rally winner Sebastien Loeb.
"It has been a perfect rally for us, we started out very cautiously with limited experience then picked up the pace as I felt more confident and comfortable in the car," said Atkinson.
"Driving on tarmac requires a completely different approach to what I am used to and over the weekend I felt a massive improvement in my driving style, and this was highlighted by the improvement in my times, they certainly dropped as I learnt more about how to handle different situations.
"I started the weekend nearly three seconds a kilometre behind the top drivers but by today that gap has been as little as 0.4 seconds a kilometre. I'm definitely happy with my progress and have met or exceeded all the targets we agreed before the start of the rally.
"There's a lot we can take away from here that will stand us in good stead for the tarmac rallies later in the year."
Following the event Atkinson paid tribute to his tarmac tutor Rob Wilson and his gravel crew, Pasi Hagstrom and Kaj Lindstrom who provided valuable information on any changes in the road conditions throughout the weekend.
"Over the past month I spent a couple of days with Rob Wilson, who has also worked with F1 and V8 drivers, while circuit racing is another style of driving to rallying on tarmac the principles and techniques are still the same. It was good to be able to put these principles into action and successfully use the techniques he has taught me," said Atkinson.
"For sure there is still a lot more improvement to come but I am very happy with the result over the weekend.
"Pasi and Kaj done a fantastic job, it was my first time using a gravel crew and they were a huge help, not only from the information on the road conditions but also the advice they provided me with over the weekend. Using such experienced and professional people was a huge help for me."
Loeb's victory enable the Frenchman to tighten his strangle hold on his second World Drivers Championship. The win is his fourth in a row on the tricky tarmac stages of Rallye Deutschland. His Citroen team-mate Francois Duval finished second ahead of Marcus Gronholm.
Loeb now holds a 32-point advantage over Gronholm with five rounds remaining the Championship. A gearbox problem cost Atkinson's team-mate Petter Solberg several minutes on the second day dropping him outside the top ten. The Norwegian recovered to finish seventh and hold on to third in the Championship standings, six points adrift of Gronholm.
Atkinson's fellow WRC rookie in the Subaru World Rally Team, Stephane Sarrazin finished in eighth position to earn his first Championship point since joining the team at the start of the year.
The next round of the Championship is the Wales Rally GB to be contested in the classic forests of South Wales on September 16-18.