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Q&A: Chris Atkinson - EXCLUSIVE

29 January 2007

by Rob Wilkins


Subaru's Chris Atkinson started the season off on a bit of a high on the Rallye Monte Carlo earlier this month, when he beat BP Ford's Mikko Hirvonen to fourth, snatching the place on the final test. Here he speaks exclusively to Crash.net Radio and reflects on the opening round in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship. He also takes time out to look further ahead and talk about the new 2007 spec Impreza...



Q:
Chris, congratulations on your result on the Rallye Monte Carlo, you must have been pleased?

Chris Atkinson:
Yeah it was a nice start to the season - but it is still going to be tough on the next few events, at the very least.

Q:
The Rallye Monte Carlo was very different this year. What did you make of it all?

CA:
It was good - although obviously you always like events when you do well on them. It seemed to work out well - especially the stage at the end. The Monaco GP circuit super special was really good and the fact we were all out there in 'free practice' as well, was great for the spectators that were there at the time.

Q:
Opinion seems to have been a bit mixed though and while the stages have got good feedback, the service area came in for a bit of criticism. What were your thoughts?

CA:
We [the drivers] don't spend so much time in the service. For sure it was a bit chaotic, but I guess that was because there were so many spectators there. You can't complain though when there are a lot of fans because that is what we are here to do [to compete and put on a show].

Q:
You don't have that much experience on asphalt that must have made the result that extra bit sweeter?

CA:
Yeah, especially as considering two years ago I hadn't done a tarmac rally. We have tried to learn and have worked pretty hard on it and we seem to have come along OK, which is important if you want to be involved in the fight for the championship.

Q:
How did you get on with the BFGoodrich tyres?

CA:
It seemed to work pretty well. From the first test the communication with BFGoodrich and the engineers was really good and we got a pretty good understanding. Furthermore considering Monte Carlo was our first event it all worked really well and we had no problems. We seemed to make pretty good tyre calls and a lot of that was due to their experience.

Q:
The car has been tweaked a little bit since the end of last season, has that made much difference?

CA:
It is very small things - you can't do a lot really at this stage. We have really got to wait for the new specification car to come, which is for Mexico. So, we know we are still going to be a little bit behind the game in the next two as well. We are making steps forward all the time though and even at the end of last year we were able to win a few stages and things like that, so it did get a bit more positive, than at the start of 2006. However, there is still a bit of a way to go.

Q:
The next two events are in Sweden and Norway and are on snow. Are you looking forward to those?

CA:
It should be good, but like I said, the aim for the first three events is just to get good solid points. We know we are probably not going to be able to fight for anything up near the podium. We have just got to be realistic – and even though it was a good start in Monte Carlo, if we can get similar results or even a bit lower, I would still be happy. We have to get out of these first three events with solid points.

Q:
Have you done any testing on snow yet?

CA:
No we haven't done any tests - that is next week [week starting January 29 – ed].

Q:
Staying with testing, have you driven the new car yet?

CA:
I drove it at the start of December and we are testing with it next week as well. I will know more then. Obviously the first time I drove it, it was the first test and although the initial feeling was good, I will wait and see.

Q:
You said the 'initial feeling' was good. Can you elaborate on that? How is the 2007 spec Impreza better?

CA:
I can probably explain more after the test next week, but they have worked on the balance of the car and on addressing all of the problems we had last year. It is heading in a good direction.

Q:
Looking at your rivals, what did you make of Citroen and the performance of Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Sordo in the new C4? Were you surprised by the pace of the C4 and the fact Seb and Dani managed a 1-2 finish?

CA:
It is not surprising - given the amount of testing they have done with that car. They have had enough time to develop it; that is for sure. They have done it well, they have done it properly and that is why they get the results.

Q:
Is that daunting for you and Subaru?

CA:
It's not [daunting] - its life. That is what we have got to do. We have got to get to that level and get the whole package working as well. That is what we are working on.

Q:
Will the new Impreza be able to match the C4?

CA:
I think it is hard to say at the moment, until I drive it more and have more of an understanding with it. We won't know until Mexico or even a bit later in the year, once we have done some development on it.


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