Fast, grippy, gravel stages and please no rain: that is what Chris Atkinson is hoping when he makes his second start in the MINI WRC for WRC Team MINI Portugal at the Wales Rally GB.
MINI heads to the Wales Rally GB with a small crew, but big goals. Chris Atkinson, who spearheads WRC Team MINI Portugal, has set his sights high for the tenth round of the current WRC season. “Atko” is out to improve on his best result so far when he lines up at the classic rally, which has been a permanent fixture on the WRC calendar since 1973. The Australian finished sixth back in 2006. This year marks his fifth appearance in Wales, and “Atko” is confident that he can do even better with his MINI John Cooper Works WRC here than he did recently at the Rally Germany.
The objective in Wales is to eek “a few per cent more” out of his MINI WRC: these were Atkinson’s words immediately after the Rally Germany, where he made his debut in the MINI WRC at the start of August and came home in fifth place. While Germany was primarily still about getting a feel for his new car, “Atko” has since completed more tests and is impressed: “The MINI is magnificent. I cannot wait to get back behind the wheel and contest my first stages on gravel.”
A tour of Wales, on tricky gravel roads.
From the Service Park – this year located in the Welsh capital of Cardiff – the Wales Rally GB takes its competitors on narrow and technically extremely demanding gravel roads around Wales, incorporating 19 Special Stages and 324.46 timed kilometres. Fans lining the route will find many spectator hot spots, from which they can follow the action live and at close hand. It might even be possible to leave the raincoat, which has been an essential piece of equipment in recent years, at home this year: for the first time since 2005, the Wales Rally GB is taking place in September again. The last few years have seen the event staged at the end of the WRC Season, when rain, wind and even snow were common place.
This year’s route is exclusively on gravel. Intermediate asphalt stages, with which the organisers have often experimented in recent years, have been dispensed of this time. “Atko” is pleased, as he is in his element on a loose surface. “I grew up on gravel, and have scored my best results on this surface,” he said. “I am looking forward to the routes in Wales, if the conditions are good. So, no rain please.” Atko might be lucky. The risk of rain in Wales on Friday and Saturday is no greater than 20 per cent. A few showers are expected on the Sunday.
The Wales Rally GB has already got underway with the Qualifying Stage, on which “Atko” finished eleventh in his MINI WRC. The second MINI WRC at the Wales Rally GB is driven by Atkinson’s team-mate Paulo Nobre, who ended the Qualifying Stage in 14th. The start of the rally takes place on Friday morning with the 20.48-kilometre “Dyfnant 1” stage, which begins at 08:13 local time (CET +1).
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