29 Feb 08
Chris Atkinson’s biggest problem on day one of Rally Mexico was a faulty intercom on the afternoon stages that meant he had to swap helmets with his co-driver in order to hear his pace notes.
Other than that, the Australian had a good day, recording five top-three times from the eight stages, although he lost a few seconds with a spin and a stall on the second lap of the Superspecial.
“Today has not been bad for us and we’re in a good position to push hard tomorrow. We’ll have to see whether we can close the gap to Sebastien and Jari-Matti as it won’t be easy” said Atkinson. “It was my mistake to spin in the final stage, and giving a few seconds away to these guys isn’t the smartest, but that’s how it goes. It won’t be easy for sure, and I have Petter and Mikko Hirvonen behind so we will push hard as always and see.”
Petter Solberg started fifth on the road and was fastest in the opening section of the first stage, but he reported a braking problem near the end of the stage and completed the last few kilometres with no brakes at all. Roadside repairs enabled him to continue on to the midday service but the Norwegian lost a total of 50 seconds over the course of the morning’s three stages and dropped to sixth overall.
“Considering we lost a minute this morning, fourth today is not bad” said Solberg. “We have won two stages, and we are pushing so hard but it will not be easy. We have two tough days left. The rocks in the stages this afternoon were incredible, just right in the middle of the road. They were so big, I don’t know how they got there. If I didn’t go off the road to avoid them, that would have been it. When you’re going flat out, it’s hard to avoid things like that but you still just have to commit.”
“We’ve again shown that we have the pace to win stages on this event, and despite some problems this morning Chris is on the podium and Petter is close enough to have his sights set on the top three” said Subaru World Rally Team Principal David Richards. “It has been a hard day for the cars and drivers, and it is encouraging to see that Pirelli’s new gravel tyre has worked very well in what have been very tough conditions.”