Subaru rally driver, Chris Atkinson, is set to return to the challenge of gravel rallying this weekend when he takes on Rally Mexico, the third round of the 2008 World Rally Championship.

The testing event gets underway on Friday, and is based in the city of Leon, in the Guanajuato region of Mexico’s central highlands.

Last year the Subaru World Rally Team launched its Impreza WRC2007 in Mexico, and 12 months later Atkinson and team-mate Petter Solberg return to South America in the same car.

Atkinson placed fifth in the event in 2007, and would love to produce another top five result this time to add to his strong start to 2008, which saw him place third in the season opener in Monte Carlo.

“Last year we had a good result and good pace on the first day, so if we can maintain consistency throughout the event then I hope we can get a good finish,” Atkinson said.

“It’s a difficult rally with the altitude and the conditions, but if we approach it with the same strategy as we have started this year, we can do well.

“We have a strong engine in the car that seems to perform well at altitude, which I think is one of the reasons we go well here.

“I like the feeling of the rally as it’s good to have such a variation in speed and conditions that keeps you entertained! Visually it’s appealing and very different, and that’s what rallying is all about.”

While it is the second Rally Mexico for the Impreza WRC2007, it will be the first that the car has run on Pirelli tyres.

Team principal, David Richards, is hopeful of a good result for his drivers in Mexico.

“Mexico is a totally different challenge to that we have seen so far this year,” Richards said. “It’s an event on which Subaru have a good record, and it really demonstrates the strength of our engine.

“Petter and Chris ran strongly on this event last year and, using the same car that we debuted then, I expect our performance to put us firmly towards the top of the timesheets.”

The route is much the same as last year with only minor additions to sections of the Ortega and El Cubilete speed tests.

Rally Mexico is the most compact route in the WRC, and this year is even more so with a total distance of just 830 kilometres. The 354 competitive kilometres of gravel roads traverse the mountains of the Sierra de Lobos and Sierra de Guanajuato to the east of Leon, reaching a peak altitude of just over 2700 metres, where the oxygen is thin and engines struggle to develop power.

The event opens with a ceremonial start on Thursday night in front of the Alhondiga de Granaditas, an historic grain storage building which now serves as a regional museum.

In contrast to the weather at the opening two events, the forecast is for dry and windy conditions, with temperatures reaching 25 degrees Celsius.

Each day is concluded by a 2.21km spectator stage, located 15km south-west of Leon, which will be run a total of five times over the three days to bring the action from the mountains to the local fans.

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