ATKINSON STARS IN SWEDEN Australian Chris Atkinson was simply sensational during his debut with the Subaru World Rally Team at the Swedish Rally when he exceeded all expectations by being in contention for a top ten finish throughout the ...
ATKINSON STARS IN SWEDEN
Australian Chris Atkinson was simply sensational during his debut with the Subaru World Rally Team at the Swedish Rally when he exceeded all expectations by being in contention for a top ten finish throughout the event.
Atkinson, 25, amazed many of experienced on lookers with his ability to rapidly adapt to the World Rally Championship spec Subaru Impreza in the trickiest conditions seen in the Swedish event for numerous years.
The pace shown by the young Australian was oustanding and in the process he set time inside the top ten on eight of the 20 stages.
With three stages remaining in the event Atkinson was placed ninth, less than half a second away from scoring a point towards the World Driver's Championship in his maiden event.
While continuing to push and find the limits of the car Atkinson ran wide on eight kilometres from the end of the stage and got stuck in a snow covered ditch for over 12 minutes, all but ending his chances for a top ten finish.
"Today I picked up the pace a little bit, it felt really good and am here to learn, there is no other way to learn than trying harder. Obviously I was little fast into one corner on the third final stage, I had to chose the best of two bad options of go off backwards or roll, I took the backwards option," said Atkinson.
"After going down a bank and through some trees we got stuck on a couple of big rocks and it took about 20 spectators basically lifting the car to get us out. Despite losing almost 13 minutes we were very lucky to keep going and get to the end.
"While the incident was disappointing it makes no difference to what we have learnt throughout the weekend."
As several of the other leading competitors also endured problems, including second placed Marcus Gronholm who rolled out of the event, Atkinson charged on to complete his maiden event and finish in 19th.
Despite missing out on a top ten Atkinson was without doubt the star of the rally in his debut in a WRC car and icey Swedish ocnditions. The Australian wasn't the only Subaru driver to be starring though, his team-mate Petter Solberg claimed a popular victory.
"Overall we are happy, it would be more disappointing if we ran around a certain speed off the pace and didn't go off and learn anything, we had a fair bit of a go and obviously made some mistakes," said Atkinson.
"The result could have been an awful a lot better but the end our aim was for us to come here to learn and we have certainly learnt a lot and improved throughout the weekend.
"Petter has done an awesome weekend to take the win for the team, he has showed the speed of the Subaru. Hopefully I look forward to doing that one day in the future but I need a lot more need a lot more experience to be able to do that.
"When we get it all together and have some more time in the car I don't think we will be too far off the pace, the fact that we have set good times with the mistakes we have made throughout the weekend is very pleasing, I'm looking forward to Mexico."
The victory by Solberg was the first victory by Subaru in Sweden since 1997 and elevated the Norwegian to third in the Championship standings. Peugeot driver Markko Martin finished second ahead of Ford's Toni Gardemeister.
The next round of the Championship will be held in Mexico on March 11-13.