Atko ready for final WRC round of 2008
- 3rd December 2008, 1:19pm
While Sebasiten Loeb has already wrapped-up his fifth straight World title from Mikko Hirvonen, and Dani Sordo looks secure in third on 59 points, the Australian is tied for fourth place with Finnish driver, Jari-Matti Latvala, on 50 points.
Atkinson, who turned 29 on Monday, would dearly like to produce a podium placing and finish above Latvala to end the season on a high note. The Gold Coast driver has had his best season, producing two seconds and three thirds from the 14 events to date, and has always been in the top four on the points table, having scored in all but four rallies.
In 2006 Atkinson finished ninth in the WRC with 20 points, and in 2007 was seventh after scoring 31 points.
So the 2008 season has already marked the Queenslanderâ€™s break-through to the absolute elite of the competition, but another strong result in Wales would be the perfect way to end the year.
However, Atkinson is well aware that Rally GB will be extremely difficult because of the winter conditions, and that he will need to have the confidence to attack the treacherous forest roads even when visibility is poor, as it often is for this round, in a car that is still in its development phase.
Atkinson and team mate, Petter Solberg, have completed more testing in their Impreza WRC2008 since the last round in Japan, where the Norwegian finished third and the Australian fourth, and hope to see further improvements in the carâ€™s performance.
â€œGB is one of the trickiest rallies and one that takes probably a few years to get used to, but last year we had some good speed there,â€ Atkinson said.
â€œIâ€™m still cautious (about the new Impreza WRC2008) as itâ€™s hard to know after a one day test where you really stand, and weâ€™ve got a few things still to sort out, but if you have confidence you can go a long way in the tricky conditions.
â€œI think thatâ€™s the case even more so this year. With some new stages I think confidence is the most important thing. Itâ€™s obviously quite difficult driving in fog, and thereâ€™s a fair chance of it being icy as well, so theyâ€™ll be some of the trickiest and most unpredictable conditions weâ€™ve driven in.
â€œWeâ€™ll go there with the strategy that weâ€™ll drive as fast as we can from the start, as we always do. I donâ€™t think only having a remote service on the first day will have much impact on that strategy though, as if you have a problem on any rally youâ€™re usually out of the running anyway.â€
The rally gets underway on Friday after a ceremonial start on Thursday night, and is split between the cities of Swansea and Cardiff. Competitors will tackle 19 stages and a total of 348.99 competitive kilometres.
In addition to a handful of stages that will be run in the dark to add to the challenge, the opening day of the rally offers a further two twists to make it even more testing. Six of the opening dayâ€™s eight stages have not been used on a WRC round in recent years, winding north through the mountains towards Aberystwyth and Newtown.
Furthermore, there is only a remote service around noon on that day, meaning that crews have limited resources and are only able to use spare parts that are carried inside the rally cars.
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