A debut of note on the Rallye Italia for the WRC Team MINI Portugal. Chris “Atko” Atkinson ends a fruitful opening day on Sardinia in fifth place overall. The Australian proves his mettle by successfully contesting eight special stages of arguably the toughest gravel event on the WRC calendar without major mishaps. Only a spin on SS7, the 14,88-kilometre Tergu-Osilo stage on Friday blotted an otherwise perfect copybook. “We spun there, which cost us a bit of time, but I am trying everything,” commented the MINI WRC driver.
That the rally deserves its reputation as a demanding test of man and machine is proven by a glance at Friday’s incident reports. In quick succession the rally claimed world champion Sébastien Loeb, Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg through accidents. On the second pass of the Monte Lerno special stage held late on Friday afternoon Mads Østberg lost over two minutes to the leader with a broken rear axle differential.
Atko and the MINI John Cooper Works WRC are both well on track to post their best personal performances in Sardinia. Atko’s best placing on the Mediterranean island is sixth, scored in 2008. For MINI the stated target after well over half the gravel event’s 306,04 timed kilometres are completed is: to beat the seventh place scored on the Rallye Mexico on a similar surface.
Paulo Nobre, driving the second MINI John Cooper Works WRC, naturally does not wish to be outdone. After his accident during Thursday’s qualifying stage, the Brazilian underlined his fighting spirit during the first eight stages to end Friday in 14th place. “Three difficult stages,” said Paulo during the midday break. “Extremely difficult to drive, and very slippery in parts.”
The many stones on the Sardinian stages caused the MINI WRC driver to hole a radiator on the final stage of the day. However, this should not hinder his start on the ninth stage on Saturday morning. Special Stage 9 starts at 09:28 local time. All news and further information on the WRC Team MINI Portugal on the Rallye Italia in Sardinia is available on Facebook.com/MINImotorsport and Twitter.com/MINImotorsport.[Source: MINI]