Chris Atkinson’s sixth place finish at the World Rally Championship rally on the island of Sardinia was the best result of the season on gravel for the Mini WRC.
It was not just any gravel; as the WRC’s event report on its web site indicates, “rather than classic gravel, the stages are loose and sandy, meaning that the top layer is easily moved to uncover a hard or abrasive base underneath. This explains as well why tire wear was such an issue over the weekend, with the soft compound option being chewed up by the aggressive surface and high temperatures.”
Atkinson, who spent much of the rally battling with Sebastien Ogier in his S2000-class Skoda, had a puncture on the final stage, but he soldiered on to finish on the bad tire. Atkinson’s finish was impressive, as his car had a broken front differential on day one, and he battled with poor handling until late in the event.
After nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb crashed out of the rally on the first day, his Citroen teammate Mikko Hirvonen stepped up to score his first win of the season. Privateer Ford drivers Evgeny Novokov and Ott Tanak finished second and third.
Ford announced earlier in the week that it would end its factory involvement in WRC next year. But Ford, like Mini, will continue to support privateer teams in 2013.
WRC Mini Team Portugal will contest Rally Spain, the final event of the season, in November. Motorsport Italia, the organization that runs the team, will then end its involvement with Mini. The good news for Mini fans is that Prodrive, the organization that developed the Mini WRC, plans to contest the entire 2013 season.—Brian S. Morgan
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