Chris Atkinson insists he could have celebrated a top five finish on his return to the World Rally Championship had it not been for two incidents on the second day of Rally Finland.
Atkinson was making his first appearance of the season at the wheel of the Citroen DS3 WRC normally campaigned by Nasser Al-Attiyah, who was away winning a bronze medal in the Skeet category at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Australian had run in a solid seventh place at the end of day one but was then forced to retire on the second day when – having already lost 16 minutes when he got stuck on a bank on SS8 – he was forced to retire after taking a wheel off his car on stage ten.
With his car repaired overnight, Atkinson rejoined the action for the final day although he was left to wonder what might have been having been classified down in 39th place under the Rally 2 regulations.
“I'd really like to thank the entire team,” he said. “We have spent the weekend in a top class car. If I hadn't made that mistake, I think we could have achieved my goal of finishing in the top five. I don't know when I'll be back in the WRC, but I hope it will be soon and with Citroen if possible!”
Fellow Citroen man Thierry Neuville also retired on the second day after hitting the same rock as Atkinson before restarting under Rally 2 to finish in 16th place.
“It was important for us to complete all the stages, including the famous Ouninpohja test,” he said. “It helped me to fine-tine my pace notes and assess how much progress I still have to make. When we crossed the finishing line, I felt disappointed because I believed I had it in me to make it to the finish without making any mistakes… My only wish now is to come back to this rally and continue to make progress!”