WRC

Swedish Rally: Chris Atkinson debut preview

Atkinson Eagerly Awaits Swedish Subaru WRC Debut Friday morning can't come fast enough for Australian Chris Atkinson as he eagerly awaits his debut with the Subaru World Rally Team in round two of the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship, the ...

Atkinson Eagerly Awaits Swedish Subaru WRC Debut

Friday morning can't come fast enough for Australian Chris Atkinson as he eagerly awaits his debut with the Subaru World Rally Team in round two of the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship, the Swedish Rally.

After completing the recce at the season opening Monte Carlo event two weeks ago Atkinson returned to his England base to spend time with his engineers at the Subaru World Rally Team Headquarters before heading to Sweden yesterday (Sunday).

With the Sweden event to be held in weather conditions distinctly different from what he has previously enjoyed on his native Gold Coast in Australia Atkinson has regularly been braving the near zero English temperature and running eight miles on almost a daily basis.

"I've been working hard in the gym to make sure that I remain on top of my game physically, a part of this includes making sure that I am prepared for all conditions," said Atkinson.

Last week Atkinson had his first drive of the Impreza WRC2004 that he will campaign in Sweden during a shakedown at a test track in the UK and was pleased with the way he settled into the car and its characteristics.

"While it wasn't an actual test I spent the majority of the day in the car and was able to get a good feel for the car and give a clear picture of what to expect which now makes me even hungrier to get back in the seat," said Atkinson after the shakedown.

"I'm really excited to have this opportunity. Even though it's only been a couple of months since my position was announced, it feels like I've been waiting for ages now - I want to start competing."

The Swedish event the event is the only pure winter rally in the series, but with drivers reaching speeds of up to 200kph, it is also one of the fastest. Cars run on narrow (135mm) snow tyres fitted with tungsten carbide tipped studs that bite through the icy surface and provide maximum traction.

Atkinson has never competed in such conditions but he believes that the jump from the gravel roads of Australia to the ice and snow covered roads of Sweden isn't as great as people may believe.

"The snow conditions are something that I think about of course, but I'll just be concentrating on getting overall experience during this event," said Atkinson.

"The driving style on snow is not that different from driving on gravel, so it's not as much of a jump for me as people might think. The way you approach corners and the way to carry speed is similar, but you have to be more careful when braking on snow than on gravel, as you don't have the same amount of tyre on the road.

"It'll also be difficult because there are a lot of Scandinavians competing in World Rally Cars, but I'll be concentrating on improving each day. The key target is to get experience and to finish the event."

Atkinson will have his first serious test with the Subaru World Rally Team in his Impreza WRC2004 during a test day today (Monday). He and West Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall will them undergo the two days of recce to prepare their pace notes for the 20 stages and that will be held over a competitive distance of 359.87km during the event.

Along with Atkinson his Subaru World Rally Team-mate Stephane Sarrazin will also be making his snow debut while it will be the sixth Swedish Rally 2003 World Champion Petter Solberg who finished third here last year for the team.

The defending Swedish Rally Champion is Sebastien Loeb who took the win ahead of Marcus Gronholm and Solberg.

Loeb, also the defending World Champion, leads the Championship on 10 points in his Citreon by virtue of his victory in the opening round at Monte Carlo last month. Second is Ford's Toni Gardemeister (8 points) followed by Mitsubishi's Gilles Panizzi on six points.

The weather forecast for the weekend is unseasonably high with temperatures expected to reach a maximum of six degrees Celsius on Friday with a minimum of minus one degree Celsius and a chance of snow. The forecast for the remainder of the event is Saturday (Max. 5 Min -2) and Sunday (Max 2 Min -4).

-ar-

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Gilles Panizzi , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Toni Gardemeister , Chris Atkinson