ATKO SIXTH AFTER EARLY STAGES IN MEXICO

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ATKO SIXTH AFTER EARLY STAGES IN MEXICO

(Event release, 8/3/2013)  AUSTRALIA’S Chris Atkinson has made a strong start to his run in Rally Guanajuato Mexico, finishing sixth outright for the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team after the first two nighttime street stages.

Atkinson and co-driver Stephane Prevot have their DS3 WRC 2.4 seconds behind overall leader Sebastien Ogier as crews prepare to start their first full day of competition in the WRC third round.

Teammates Dani Sordo and Mikko Hirvonen are immediately ahead of the pair, in fourth and third places respectively.

Atkinson was equal-fifth with Jari-Matti Latvala’s Volkswagen in SS1 and sixth in SS2, a creditable effort after not having driven since last year. He clipped a kerb on the first stage, but escaped any damage to his car.

Earlier, Atkinson completed the Qualifying session in equal-eighth place and drew the sixth starting spot for the early stages.

The Gold Coast-based driver, 33, is hoping a good performance on the Rally Guanajuato Mexico will lead to more WRC outings this year.

He tested the DS3 in Portugal recently, completing 150 kilometres in conditions that weren’t typically Mexican.

“Unfortunately the weather wasn’t very good, it was raining on and off, so not great preparations for the dust and heat we’re expecting,” he said.

“Luckily I already know the car a bit from Rally Finland last year, so this was more about familiarisation, getting in some extra miles and adjusting the set-up a little.”

Atkinson was a Subaru works team driver from 2004 until 2008, when the manufacturer withdrew from the series. Mexico was the scene for his career-best WRC result, second outright in 2008.

He returned to Mexico for one of six WRC rounds he tackled in 2012, rewarding Ken Block’s Ford team with its first-ever WRC stage win.

“I think the rally suits my driving style,” Atkinson said.

“I’ve always had decent results in Mexico and we won a stage there last year. Hopefully we can do a good job this time and get a decent points haul for the Abu Dhabi team.

“We’re not going there to go absolutely flat out but obviously we’re going to try our best. Top five is a good target. I think we’d be happy with that.”

“I’d love to be back in a full-time drive, and the opportunity to drive a factory Citroen is massive for me. I don’t know where this will lead but I’d love to do a few more WRC events this year. We’ll have to wait and see.”

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.