01 May 08
After five round of the 2008 WRC season Chris Atkinson is enjoying the most successful period of his driving career.
Atkinson joined the WRC series in 2005, when he moved to Europe from his native Australia and signed for the Subaru World Rally team. He bagged one podium finish that first year - a third on Rally Japan - but he failed to get as high again in 2006 or 2007.
This year, however, the 28-year old has achieved some terrific results. He made the podium on the first round in Monte Carlo and came second in Mexico and Argentina. Another third on the last rally in Jordan made it four podiums from five rallies and consolidated his third place in the drivers' championship - 19 points ahead of his team-mate Petter Solberg.
WRC.com spoke to Chris on Thursday after the Jordan Rally to ask him about the most recent event and what it means for the year ahead.
Where are you now?
Nice airport. I'm heading to Sardinia for a test.
Can you sum up your Jordan Rally in one word?
The rally looked great on television but what were the stages like to drive?
They were really tricky actually. Very deceptive. There weren't many trees around and not a lot of contrast in the surface between the edge and the middle of the road. You only knew you'd found the edge because of the rocks, so it was difficult to keep the best line. At high speed the road almost became a blur. It was completely different to anything we've ever driven on before and created plenty of action.
What went through your mind on Sunday when you heard Jari-Matti Latvala had dropped out and you were third?
I had a feeling something like that might happen to one of the guys ahead. Even from the Saturday morning I'd sort of backed off the pace. I had a big gap behind and in front and there was nothing I could do, speed wise, to catch them. So I reduced the speed, tried not to take too many risks and concentrated on keeping the others behind. If I kept on with that strategy I reasoned I'd be 4th or 5th and I'd have been happy with that. Then Jari-Matti went off and I was up to third. Okay it was a better result, but it was down to someone else having a problem. If I'd beaten him on the stages it would have been cool, but if your not fighting it's just part of the sport - Jari had some bad luck. We were in a position where we we'd played a sensible rally, we weren't pushing, weren't taking any risks, the car was in good condition and in the end it got us a podium.
Another podium though. Did you do any celebrating on Sunday night?
Not really. It looked like a good night but I had a flight at 1.40am so I went out for a bit, had some dinner and left for the airport at 11pm.
You said you were doing all you could in Jordan but the car had handling problems. Can you tell us more about this?
It's just a handling issue. The car is underperforming compared to the opposition and that's all I can say really. I'm on the limit of what's possible with the car, yet I can't match the pace of the leaders. Petter and I are still driving flat-out - and we're probably taking more risks than normal - but the times aren't there. Sometimes it works better than others but that's why we were off the pace in Jordan. The team is working hard to find a solution but that's just the way it is for the moment.