Freezing weather and icy roads are making driving extremely difficult for competitors in the final round of the 2008 WRC, Rally Wales GB.
It all went slip sliding away from Subaru works driver Chris Atkinson whose Impreza skidded while running flat-out on ice and crashed heavily on Wales Rally GB yesterday.
A helicopter flew Atkinson to hospital but he was said not to be badly hurt and was due to be released.
The World Rally Championship (WRC) finale began in near freezing temperatures and with ice covering the roads. Conditions were bad enough for officials to cancel two stages because they were unsafe. That cut the total distance of leg one from 123km to fewer than 50.
Subaru works drivers Petter Solberg and Atkinson were running fifth and sixth positions until SS7 where the Australian crashed on a flat-out left-right kink a few hundred metres from the start.
Ambulance crews sent to the scene reported Atkinson and co-driver Stephane Prevot were not badly hurt, but Atkinson was flown to hospital for observation.
Solberg said driving on the icy roads had been “unbelievably difficult. We were very careful this morning just trying to find out how the roads were and the limit (of tyre grip), and we were in a quite okay position.
“We made some changes in the midday service and on the long stage (SS6) we started fastest, then the screen fogged up so we couldn’t see anything.
“I was driving from (pacenotes called by do-driver Philip Mills), but the stage is very fast so we lost time quickly. I lost I’m sure 14 or 15 seconds so I think we could have been fighting for the lead.
“When I heard about Chris when we were waiting to start the stage after him it’s scary, very difficult. It makes you more cautious. With these tyres and no tread cutting, no gravel crew, full ice and rock hard tyres; I just don’t know.”
Ford’s Jari-Mattia Latvala leads the rally, from newly-crowned world champion Sebastien Loeb.
Leg 1 results.
1. Latvala/Anttila, Ford Focus RS WRC 07,
2. Loeb/Elena, Citroen C4 WRC, +12.9s.
3. Andersson/Andersson, Suzuki SX4 WRC, +22.5s
4. Ostberg/Unnerud, Subaru Impreza WRC, +24.0s.
5. Solberg/Mills, Subaru Impreza WRC2008, 7.4s.
6. Sordo/Marti, Citroen C4 WRC, +32.2s.
7. Duval/Giraudet, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +52.0s.
8. Solberg / Menkerud, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +54.7s.
9. Ogier/Ingrassia, Citroen C4 WRC, +54.8s.
10. Wilson/Martin, Ford Focus RS WRC 07, +1m 33.0s.