Chris Atkinson is cautious about his prospects this coming weekend on the Rallye Deutschland, what will be the first event for the Subaru World Rally Team with the all-new Impreza WRC2008 on tarmac.

Atkinson took yet another podium in Finland recently, a result that moved him back up into third in the drivers' championship, narrowly ahead of Citroen's Dani Sordo and Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala.

The Aussie will now be out to build on that and while he has only done the German round three times, his best result coming in 2006, when he finished eighth, he is determined to push hard.

Indeed while he only finished 15th under the SupeRally last year, his pace was impressive - and he won three stages and set four further top-three times from the 19 tests.

In addition with a two day pre-event test under his belt, the signs are all pretty encouraging: "We were fast in Germany last year, but this year we have a new car on new tyres and the first rally on tarmac so it's hard to know where we are speed-wise. The test there went well though, and if we can carry the same form we had last year it would be good," he noted.

"It was great in Finland to get a podium as our first points-score with the new car, as it does build confidence - the more time you spend in the car the more confident you get with it.

"We will go there pushing hard and get a gauge of our performance, and then see how we go from there, but I'm looking forward to it."

Subaru's operations director Paul Howarth meanwhile has warned that the weather can be a key factor on the tenth round in the World Rally Championship.

Indeed whilst it is run in the German summertime, meaning temperatures can be 20 degrees Celsius or more, the mountainous surroundings of the Eifel and Hunsruck ranges make for sporadic and sudden rainfall.

Furthermore with the slick nature of the roads tending to hold the water, the stages quickly become greasy and the risk of sliding off is ever-present.

"The weather is very hard to predict in the region, and it's very easy to get caught out on a stage on a rain shower, which completely changes the characteristics of the roads," added Howarth. "If someone makes it through a stage in the dry but it rains for the rest of the field, even on only a portion of the stage, it can make a huge difference to the overall standings.

"This event in lethal in the wet as the roads are coated in shiny tar on which any water just sits, making it incredibly slippery. It's also very fast and very narrow in the vineyards, mostly one car width, so lines and precision are critical. We've seen in the past that it's so easy to make a mistake here. Generally once underway it's not hard on the cars, so it's all about drivers keeping their noses clean, avoiding spins and going off.

"The Panzerplatte stage on day two is especially unpredictable on grip; if dry it's phenomenally hard on tyres as it's concrete, and if wet it can be hard to get heat into the tyres and is very slippery. On the wider military roads it is very hard to find the right line as they are so wide, and the hinkelstein are designed to lay out the course for slow-moving vehicles, so it's a compromise at high-speed. It's the first time we'll be using the hard and soft compound Pirelli tyres too, and on day two we're back to remote services."


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