Atkinson secures podium finish

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MRF’s Australian driver Chris Atkinson reserved his best for the last and finished second from an overnight seventh position in the Malaysian leg of Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in Johor Bahru on Sunday.

In an incident-filled final day, Atkinson found himself back in contention as Day 1 top-runners P.G. Andersson of Proton and MRF’s Gaurav Gill pulled out from the rally owing to mechanical failures.

Proton’s Alister McRae, who was third until Andersson and Gill stepped out, went on to win the Malaysian leg.

Atkinson, with co-driver Stephan Prevot, won five of the last seven stages and finished with a comfortable 3-1/2 minutes lead over third placed Brian Green of Brian Green Motorsports.

If it was not for the massive 27:26.6 minutes deficit he accumulated from the first-placed driver on day one following a mechanical glitch, there was no stopping the 32-year-old from winning his third leg after Whangarei and Queensland. “It feels special to have made the podium after a tough first day.

In these conditions you need some luck as well,” said Atkinson, who has maintained his position as rally leader. However his teammate Gill, who was second overall after the first three rallies has been replaced by McRae.

For Gill, the trail of misfortune continued from the previous leg in Queensland and he was again forced to pull out in the first stage of the day. It was the same trouble Atkinson had with his Skoda on day one, but in Gill’s case the condition was worse.

“I am being hunted by bad luck and had the machine not given up, with Andersson gone I could’ve won,” said Gill. “I am happy for Chris, he really fought hard for it, but it is a shame that I could’ve made the podium myself,” he said.

The fifth and penultimate leg of APRC is scheduled to be held in Hokkaido, Japan from September 15-16 and team MRF is preparing to wrap up the championship.

Final standings: 1. Alister McRae (Proton) 2:57:31.5; 2. Chris Atkinson (MRF) 3:22:56.6, 3. Brian Green (Brian Green Motorsport) 3:24:08.1.

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