Interview: Chris Atkinson
- 31st January 2009, 10:32am
Chris Atkinson's move to the Citroen Junior Team has given the Australian a chance to show what he can really do in a competitive car after years of frustration at Subaru.
He certainly showed his speed on the opening day of the Rally Ireland, setting several top four stage times in the still-unfamiliar car, but it certainly wasn't a trouble-free day, as he told autosport.com at the final service.
Q. How was your first day in new overalls?
Not the best. These were just about the worst possible conditions to try and learn a new car. It really hasn't been easy at all.
Don't get me wrong, this is a fantastic car, but it's quite different to the Subaru. The way the engine revs, the way the car works, you're trying to figure out how to drive it and there's standing water everywhere. Not nice.
The first stage was good...
I was pretty happy with that. We got through, we were on the wrong tyre - there was no grip at all. But we were only about 10 seconds down on Sebastien [Loeb] and we hadn't been pushing hard, we'd been cautious. That wasn't a bad start at all.
Yeah, then things got a bit worse. I took off the lamp pod at the start of the second stage and then I simply forgot to put the bonnet pins back in. I went into the stage; off the line: first, second, third and then bang. The bonnet came up and smashed the screen. I had to stop and bolt it back down.
It comes as a massive shock when that happens. I couldn't believe it. That made it even harder to drive in those conditions. The screen started to mist up, there were cracks everywhere, I just couldn't see. And all the time, the road's really narrow, it's pouring with rain and you're trying to find braking points and to get the car turned into the corners. I was glad to get into service.
What happened this afternoon?
It started well. We were closing on Mikko's [Hirvonen] pace. We were fourth fastest through the early part of the afternoon, which I was happy with, but then about a kilometre from the end of the final stage, I got caught out on a fifth-gear right-hander. It was a wide section of road, but it was the shiny asphalt. The car got away from me, it slid one way then snapped back the other. We hit a power pole on Stephane's [Prevot, co-driver] side of the car. It was a pretty big impact. Stephane's got a bit of a sore shoulder, but I think he'll be okay.
Did it cost you much time?
About a minute. It took us some time to get where we were, then we were stuck on a bit of a bank. The spectators came and helped us get away.
Is the car okay?
Yes. The car's fine. Stephane's door's not so good, but the car's driving fine.
Will tomorrow be a fresh start?
Absolutely. I always said let's look at Saturday and I stand by that. We'll get back in and see what we can do tomorrow. Okay, today hasn't been the best. We made a simple mistake with the bonnet pins and then had one spin. Without those two things, we would have been fourth. I know the speed's there and my confidence in the car is really coming.
As told to David Evans of autosport.com
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