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When the flag drops on Chris Atkinson on the first stage of Telstra Rally Australia this year, the hopes of thousands of his loyal Australian fans will ride with him.

The popular Queenslander, one half of this year’s Subaru World Rally team, knows that a victory on home soil is something that every driver craves. That craving, more often than not, still does not guarantee a podium placing, despite the best wishes of those who have either come in person to support him, or are supporting him from afar.

Despite this being his second season with Subaru, things have not always gone as he and co-driver, Glen Macneall, have wanted. Mechanical failings, an uncompetitive car, the occasional wrong choice of tyres, not to mention a few driving errors, have all contributed to a less-than-successful program.

Not that team leader Petter Solberg has fared much better – the Norwegian’s results this season have been far from his best. Despite the SWRT’s best efforts to match the pace of the Citroen Xsara and the Ford Focus, it seems that the once all-conquering Subarus still have a long way to go to really be on today’s pace.

For Chris Atkinson, his fourth outright in the recent Rally of Japan has been his best result this year, a result that could have been even better had his car not had problems early in the event.

Given that he was still competitive at the event end, a third place (and a spot on the podium!) could have been his, which all goes to show that he and Macneall are well and truly on the pace.

But what of their potential in Rally Australia? Western Australia’s gnarly roads, often covered in ball bearing-like stones, demand both respect and commitment. Any driver who has been to Rally Australia before, knows that a good margin of luck is required to achieve results.

The fine line between driving competitively and over-driving, is becoming increasingly hard to find, but Atkinson, having been there before, knows what is required to bring home the bacon. He, probably better than anyone else, knows that a win is only as good as the sum of outright stage wins. A reliable car, good reconnaissance, a knowledge of local conditions, and a little luck, are what’s required to deliver the goods.

Chris Atkinson will be under no false illusions when he drops the clutch in Perth on October 27, and he certainly won’t be underestimating the pace of the factory Citroens and Fords. He’ll know that the pressure will be on right from the start, and he’ll be out to show his mettle, despite lacking the experience of the likes of Gronholm and Loeb.

Wouldn’t it be a killer feeling if Chris and Glen could just somehow, some way, finish Telstra Rally Australia, the last WRC event in Western Australia, on the top rung of that elusive winner’s podium?

Really, you’d want to be there spectating just to smell the atmosphere, wouldn’t you? After the Japanese result, you wouldn’t have to think twice about putting your money on “our” Subaru team either! The only question mark is whether his Subaru can last the distance.

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