Stirring drive puts Atko third in Rally Finland
- 3rd August 2008, 8:53am
Subaru rally driver Chris Atkinson has produced a tenacious drive on the second day of Rally Finland to move from his overnight seventh placing to third, but faces a massive fight on the final day if he is to finish on the podium for a fifth time this season.
While Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen are set for their own battle for first place with just 18.2 seconds separating the pair, Atkinson is just one second clear of Dani Sordo with three stages and 40.47 competitive kilometres remaining.
The Australian is three minutes 3.6 seconds behind Loeb, so his total focus on the final day will be on defending his current position from the talented young Spanish driver.
The pair has a handy break of 27 seconds over Henning Solberg in fifth with Petter Solberg another 27.1 seconds back in sixth.
Atkinson experienced plenty of frustration on Friday when his new Impreza WRC2008 was unable to match the pace of its rivals. But today he demonstrated the potential of the new car by consistently setting top four stage times across the day.
At the close of day one’s competition Atkinson was 48 seconds off the pace of the third placed Henning Solberg. But after seven of the day’s ten stages the Gold Coast driver had slashed this advantage to a mere 2.9 seconds and then slipped past Solberg into fourth place on the very next stage.
With another two stages remaining Atkinson continued to push. Sordo started the day 36 seconds clear of the Subaru driver, but by the end of the day’s penultimate stage the buffer was down to 6.1 seconds. Then on the final stage Atkinson got ahead of the Citroen driver to set up Sunday’s showdown.
“It’s been a good day, and if you look at the battle for third we’ve been right on the pace’” said Atkinson.
“We had no problems, we’re still pushing hard, and it’s really good for us to make up this time and get into third. It’s great especially when we were down in ninth at one point yesterday.
“It’s good for the team that we’re where we are and have been setting some good times. The two guys in front are going really well and are out on their own, but we’ll keep pushing hard tomorrow to stay where we are.
“Dani is quick on the stages he knows and we seem to take some time on the new stages, so it won’t be easy.”
Atkinson’s performance buoyed the mood of Subaru World Rally Team principal, David Richards.
“We have clearly taken a step forward in our performance on these very fast and loose roads today and for Chris to have climbed to third is very impressive,” said Richards.
“We’re learning all the time with this new car, and as we continue with our development program, today has shown very clearly that results will follow.”
Results after day two – Rally Finland
1. Loeb / Elena, Citroen C4 WRC, 2h 33m 43.5s
2. Hirvonen / Lehtinen, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +18.2s (diff. to leader)
3. Atkinson / Prévot, Subaru Impreza WRC2008, +3m 03.6s
4. Sordo / Marti, Citroen C4 WRC, +3m 04.6s
5. H. Solberg / Menkerud, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +3m 31.6s
6. P. Solberg / Mills, Subaru Impreza WRC2008, +3m 58.7s
7. Rantanen / Lonegren, Ford Focus RS WRC 06, +5m 55.2s
8. Gardemeister / Tuominen, Suzuki SX4 WRC, +7m 28.6s
9. Wilson / Martin, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +7m 54.5s
10. Rautenbach / Senior, Citroen C4 WRC, +9m 29.1sWith swrt.com
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