Atko hopes to improve on fourth
- 21st September 2006, 4:38pm
The Queenslander, fresh from his best result of the season at his last start - a fourth at Rally Japan three weeks ago - knows that he will need good form and good luck to reproduce another top placing.
It will be Atkinson’s second competitive outing in Cyprus. Last year the Australian had a difficult start to the event, but posted a string of top ten fastest stage times on Legs two and three to finish the event tenth overall.
“To achieve a good result in Cyprus it’s crucial to have good reliability and consistency, as the rally is incredibly demanding on the cars, possibly the most demanding of the entire championship so far,” Atkinson said.
“Last year we didn’t have such a good event as we had problems on the first day, but it was good to get experience of the stages on the final two Legs. The rally is really hard work for drivers and co-drivers as the roads are very rough and the stages seem to last for ages as there are so many corners.”
"This event requires more luck than others so hopefully that will fall our way."
The rally is based in the seaside tourist town of Limassol with stages run on rough gravel roads in the Troodos mountains in the centre of the island.
Scheduled from 22-24 September, four months later than last year and at the end of the Cypriot summer, the rally is nevertheless likely to retain its traditional hot, sunny weather, with temperatures expected to reach more than 30 degrees Celsius.
Atkinson is aware of the challenge the rally presents and has prepared himself well.
“To build up stamina for these longer runs, I step up my fitness training to do longer runs and focus more on endurance training. I’d like to get a top five position this year.”
It is a very important event for Atkinson and team-mate Petter Solberg, according to Subaru World Rally Team sporting director, Luis Moya.
“Historically it’s claimed a number of retirements and, of course, the searing heat and dust can cause problems too,” Moya said.
“We hope we are well prepared as a team; our drivers have trained especially for the temperatures and we’ve run a six-day test in Sardinia that should help us meet our performance targets in Cyprus as a team. We obviously hope to get a good result; both cars in the top six is a realistic prospect.”
The rally’s twisty roads generate low average speeds; it’s expected that crews will negotiate the route at an average speed of just over 60kph, barely half the speed recorded on smooth gravel events like Rally Finland or Rally New Zealand. With less air being forced into the car, airflow to the engine and transmission is substantially reduced and teams run cooling settings at their maximum to keep temperatures at a suitable level. Driving conditions for crews, too, can become very uncomfortable as temperatures in the cockpit soar.
The event runs from a single service park in the Lemesos Palais des Sports located to the north of downtown Limassol. The rally will start on Thursday 21 September with a ceremonial start along the Limassol promenade, also the venue for a new Superspecial.
The rally comprises 331.34 competitive kilometres and 23 stages, five more than 2005 after the addition of the Superspecial and a new combination of speed tests used in previous years. The podium finish is scheduled for 1500hrs at the Limassol promenade on Sunday afternoon.
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