Swedish Rally: Chris Atkinson leg two notes

AMAZING PERFORMANCE BY ATKINSON IN SWEDEN Australian Chris Atkinson put in an amazing performance during the second leg of his World Rally Championship debut with the Subaru World Rally Team in Sweden today to be placed inside the top ten with ...

Swedish Rally: Chris Atkinson leg two notes

AMAZING PERFORMANCE BY ATKINSON IN SWEDEN

Australian Chris Atkinson put in an amazing performance during the second leg of his World Rally Championship debut with the Subaru World Rally Team in Sweden today to be placed inside the top ten with one leg remaining.

After finishing the opening leg yesterday in 16th position Atkinson began the day in scintillating fashion setting the seventh fastest time on the first 20.78km stage of the day.

Continuing to exceed all expectations in his World Rally Championship debut on the icy Swedish roads Atkinson set shockwaves through the service park after stage four when he set the fourth fastest time.

The time set on the 26.04km stage by the 25-year-old Australian was a mere 21.6 seconds behind the fastest time set by Marcus Gronholm and only 15.3 seconds behind his Subaru team mate, 2003 World Champion, Petter Solberg who was second fastest.

Atkinson's pace on this stage enabled him to move up the order and climb into the top ten.

"We learnt a lot yesterday and continued to learn a lot more today, if you gives us a little bit more time in these conditions and the Subaru WRC car I think we will be even closer to the pace," said Atkinson.

"I feel a lot more comfortable in the car today; there was more snow around during the stages late in the morning which was good but a little tricky. While the conditions are very tricky I have tried to play it safe and follow the line which has paid off a bit.

"Throughout the day I have been able to develop a decent rhythm, we know where we are losing time but that is mainly because it is out first time here and still taking it a little easy."

As the day continued Atkinson maintained a steady and level headed approach to each stage and remained inside the top ten by setting impressive stage times.

"I don't think we have gone any faster today than what we did yesterday but the key to today's improvement has been making fewer mistakes," said Atkinson.

"The conditions towards the end of the day were very tricky with very little or no snow cover and it was basically gravel which made it difficult on the spiked tyres that wore very quickly."

Atkinson finished the day in tenth outright under four minutes behind Solberg who leads the event. Solberg is followed Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm who is 12.6 seconds in arrears defending Champion Sebastien Loeb in his Citreon. Stephane Sarrazin, Atkinson's second Subaru team mate, finished the day in 17th position.

Atkinson's speed and mental approach throughout the weekend has impressed many on lookers, none are more so than the management of the Subaru World Rally Team.

"I am as impressed by his approach as by his speed, we expected him to go well, we expected him improve during the rally, but the way he has gone about it, especially after his set back on the first stage yesterday," said Subaru Team Principal David Lapworth.

"Chris has been the star of the rally for me. In the context of someone who had never driven a rally car before Monday and never driven in a snow rally, his times today have been amazing. His challenge now is to maintain that momentum and finish tomorrow with experience of the whole route so he can come back next year fighting for a strong overall position.

"Everything we have seen from Chris so far has been better than we as a team could have expected, he has a very calm and professional approach to everything."

There are six stages remaining across a total competitive distance of 113.86 km in tomorrow's final leg of the Uddeholm Swedish Rally.

Temperatures throughout today varied from a low of -6 degrees during the early morning stages to reach a high of 2 degrees. The weather forecast for tomorrow in the region surrounding the event is for snow showers with a maximum temperature of -3 degrees celcius and an overnighte temperature of -5.

-ar-

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