29 May 08
Subaru World Rally Team driver Chris Atkinson says the Impreza WRC2008 quickly needs to demonstrate rally winning pace if he’s to challenge Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Loeb for this year’s title.
After Rally Sardinia Atkinson holds third in the drivers’ championship, 12 points adrift of the leader Mikko Hirvonen.
Atkinson said his pre-rally preparations had gone well and he immediately felt at home in the new car. “Driving it for the first time was exciting because the previous version is all I’ve ever driven and what I’ve got used to,” he said. “But it was no problem, I just slipped into the seat, everything looked familiar and away we went.”
After four podiums so far this year, Atkinson is having his best ever start to a WRC season. But despite his encouraging position on the championship table, the Australian says he needs rally wins if he’s to challenge those ahead.
“Okay, we’re third, but we haven’t been on the pace of the leaders. That’s why everyone in the team is looking forward to the new car,” said Atkinson. “We really want to start winning as soon as possible. Okay, we’re not saying it’s going to happen right now but we’re motivated and we’re going to push ourselves. If we’re going to fight for championships we have to win rallies.”
Atkinson was the fastest Subaru driver at the Acropolis Rally pre-event shakedown and said the car had run without any problems. Asked whether the previous model would have been any faster Atkinson said he couldn’t be sure.
“It’s hard to say, everyone’s pretty close these days,” he said. “I only really got three good runs through the stage. But the feeling was good and it was about the time that everybody else was doing - so we can’t hope for much more. Obviously this car will get quicker and quicker with more fine tuning but at the moment to be around this pace is fine. We’re just looking forward to getting out there tomorrow and seeing what we can do.”