Loeb wins, Atko second in Argentina
- 31st March 2008, 9:19am
Subaru rally driver Chris Atkinson has continued his brilliant start to the 2008 World Rally Championship by finishing in second place in Rally Argentina, moving him to third position on the series points’ table.
It is the second time in the last two outings that the Queenslander has finished runner-up to rally legend Sebastien Loeb, and it is his third podium of the year.
The Frenchman leads the Championship with 30 points, five clear of Mikko Hirvonen on 25, with Atkinson next on 22 points.
Until this season, Australian drivers had only ever been on the World Rally Championship podium twice. Ross Dunkerton took third place in New Zealand in 1982 and Atkinson posted a third in Japan in 2005. For Atkinson to record three podiums from four starts this season is seeing the complete re-writing of the record book.
The final day in Argentina had its usual elements of drama.
Atkinson’s team mate, Petter Solberg, who was in second place, was dealt a cruel blow when he was forced to retire with only two stages to go when his car had a complete electrical failure.
His demise saw the Gold Coast driver move up the leader board, finishing two minutes 33.2 seconds behind Loeb. Danni Sordo was third, a further one 31.5 seconds behind.
An indication of the challenges faced by the field was that the fourth placed driver, Conrad Rautenbach, was another 16 minutes further back.
"It’s been such a hard weekend, so it’s more of a relief to just to finish," Atkinson said.
"Another podium is fantastic for us and for the team. There’s nothing that motivates the guys more than a great result at the end of all the hard work."
"The feeling in the car was just so much more consistent this weekend and it was easier to drive so I was able to push without making any big mistakes."
"It’s clear we’ve taken some good steps forward with the car this year, but it’s sort of a surprise for me to be third in the championship at the moment."
"It’s a real shame about Petter as he was going very well and Subaru should have had two cars on the podium, but it demonstrates that we’re definitely moving in the right direction."
The next challenge in the World Rally Championship lies in the Middle East starting on April 24. Rally Jordan is a brand new event for all teams. Set on the banks of the Dead Sea, almost all of the hard-packed sandy routes run below sea level, to a lowest point of 408m below.
FINAL RESULTS - RALLY ARGENTINA
1. Loeb / Elena, Citroen C4 WRC, 4h 05m 48.6s
2. Atkinson / Prevot, Subaru Impreza WRC2007, +2m 33.2s (diff. to 1st)
3. Sordo / Marti, Citroen C4 WRC, +4m 04.7s
4. Rautenbach / Senior, Citroen C4 WRC, +20m 03.5s
5. Hirvonen / Lehtinen, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +25m 15.3s
6. Villlagra / Perez Companc, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +27m 42.0s
7. Galli / Bernacchini, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +27m 51.8s
8. Aigner / Wicha, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +28m 59.3s
9. Beltran / Rojas, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, +30m 04.9s
10. Ketomaa / Teiskonen, Subaru Impreza, +31m 52.6s
Ret, Solberg / Mills, Subaru Impreza WRC2007, SS19 elec. failure
DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
1 Loeb / Elena, 30
2 Hirvonen / Lehtinen, 25
3 Atkinson / Prévot, 22
4 Latvala / Anttila, 16
5 Galli / Bernacchini, 11
6 Solberg / Mills, 9
- Sordo / Marti, 9
8 Duval / Chevalier, 5
MANUFACTURERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS
1 BP Ford WRT, 44
2 Citroen Total WRT, 41
3 Subaru World Rally Team, 33
4 Stobart VK M-Sport WRT, 22
5 Munchi’s Ford WRT, 10
6 Suzuki WRT, 6
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