Subaru's Chris Atkinson is looking forward to the Rally Japan this week and like his team-mate Petter Solberg is confident Subaru can do well on home ground with the relatively new Impreza WRC2008.

Atkinson has had a pretty strong season and thus far has notched up 45 points, thanks to nine points finishes from 13, including four podiums - the last in Finland when he was third.

With Japan somewhat similar to that event, the Aussie is hopeful he can take rostrum finish number five and while this year's Rally Japan will be a step into the unknown - as the events base has moved from Obihiro to Sapporo - Chris doesn't seem too bothered.

"Though the stages are new and the rally has moved to Sapporo, experience shows that I like the narrow high speed stages of Japan which are similar to Finland where I scored my last podium this year," he stated.

"I was the first Australian driver to stand on the podium when I scored my very first podium here on the 2005 Rally Japan so I have some good memories. It also tells you that we can perform better when the average speed is faster.

"It's an important rally for us and the team, and I'm looking forward to it. It's the team's home and everyone there is a huge Subaru fan!"

Subaru's operations director Paul Howarth meanwhile has warned that it won't be a walk in the park - and Atkinson knows only too well how tough it can be, as he was sidelined by an accident in 2007, when he crashed out on the opening day and hit a tree.

"Rally Japan has got a bit of everything; it's got medium-fast, slow and high-speed sections, up and down hill gradients and a new superspecial stage on tarmac. It's very unique, and hasn't got any one particular characteristic," Howarth added.

"The drivers are not going to get a real feel for the conditions either until they actually do the first stage because the shakedown is run on the superspecial stage and therefore is on tarmac.

"We're expecting quite low temperatures, but it's been 20 degrees Celsius recently there so it's hard to know exactly. It'll be as tricky, especially the second passes of the stages where it'll get very rutted.

"When you get rutted roads you don't know what surprises you're going to get as the cars could pull rocks up from beneath the surface, and because the roads are narrow these rocks won't be swept to one side away from the line.

"We're also going to be running in the dark, so it's the first time since GB last year that the drivers will have done so [on gravel]. That'll throw up some challenges as the second passes of stages are those that will be dark, so you'll have the tricky, rutted conditions and the darkness combined.

"The ruts are where you can really make or lose time. If you've got a lot of confidence and can really commit and hold the line, then you'll be very fast. It'll be a very challenging event."



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