Subaru rally driver Chris Atkinson is looking to build on his impressive record in Japan when the next round of the World Rally Championship gets underway in Hokkaido on Friday (October 26).

Atkinson finished third in Rally Japan in 2005, the best result of his career to date, and backed it up with a fourth last year.

“Japan has been good for us in the past,” Atkinson said.

“It’ll be a good change to get back to a gravel surface again after the recent asphalt double-header, and the car should be better suited to the bumpy and loose surface than the flat asphalt from the last two events.”

“I’m looking forward to a good result, but it will be tough as the days are long and the stages demanding.”

“Approaching corners you are often unsighted by the trees and it is difficult to always get the lines right, but there is no margin for error so it is a hard rally.”

Richard Taylor, Subaru World Rally Team managing director, knows it is important for his team to produce a strong result in Japan.

“This is Subaru's home event and a strong result here is important for everyone in the team so we will all be pushing even harder than normal,” Taylor said.

“The last two gravel events have given us fourth places with Chris and we know we’ve made a number of significant improvements to the car since New Zealand. The additional test the team did for Japan went very well and our target and expectation is for Petter and Chris to be on podium pace throughout.”

As the only round of the WRC to take place in Asia, Rally Japan usually attracts hundreds of thousands of fans from all over the continent. Last year over 200,000 people attended the three days of competition, while the ceremonial start alone drew 52,000 spectators.

Rally Japan is a highly technical event with narrow, loose gravel stages which run through dense woodland on the edge of the vast Tokachi plain that stretches inland from the Pacific Ocean.

Each day will be a gruelling test for crews with ten stages per day on legs one and two and seven stages on the final leg. The stages vary greatly in both character and length, ranging from the 1.35km SuperSpecial stage round the service park, which is run a total of five times, to the longest stage Puray, which totals 34.96 competitive kilometres. Coupled with long liaison sections, drivers will be on the road for 12 hours each day during the first two legs.

Changeable weather is as much a feature of Rally Japan as the long days. Although Obihiro is flanked by two mountain ranges, it lies in the path of Pacific weather systems which bring high winds and torrential rain to the island.

With the rally taking place in autumn in the height of the typhoon season, it is likely that rain showers will fall each day, leaving the ground saturated. With some stages used five times, the roads can quickly become heavily rutted. Temperatures will be low, with a strong chance of snow as it dips below 0 degrees Celsius by night.
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