Debut impresses Citroen
An Australian junior wins praise for an Irish outing, writes CRAIG DUFF
AFIFTH place for Chris Atkinson in his first World Championship Rally event for Citroen has earned the admiration of the French team.
Atkinson was driving the C4 for the first time and was quickly on the pace in last weekend’s Rally of Ireland, despite three mishaps during the rally.
The team forgot to pin down the bonnet and it flew up and smashed the windscreen.
Atkinson then had two minor ‘‘offs’’, but the rain was so bad most drivers were using snow tyres to maximise grip.
Offsetting his crashes were 11 top-five stage times, many only just behind race winner Sebastien Loeb.
Citroen team boss Benoit Nogier was impressed. ‘‘Chris’s fifth position is an excellent result and we hope he’ll be back with the Citroen Junior Team as soon as possible,’’ he says.
‘‘He has shown, again, that he can mix it with the best drivers in the world.’’
Atkinson was in fourth place on the final day, but conceded the position to Henning Solberg.
‘‘I braked too late,’’ he says. ‘‘The car got away from me. It slid one way, then snapped back the other.
‘‘We hit a power pole on Stephane’s (Prevot, co-driver) side of the car. Stephane has a bit of a sore shoulder, but I think he’ll be OK. Consequently, we lost a minute.
‘‘Fourth place would have been a good result but I’m not going to be disappointed by a top five placing in such a difficult event. ‘‘I was still learning the Citroen C4 WRC on this rally. The car was quick and reliable, and the Citroen Junior Team helped me make a lot of progress. I hope to drive the car again very soon!’’
No lemon: Chris Atkinson drives a C4 in the FIA World Rally in Sloughan Glen, Ireland.