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Published on July 17th, 2011 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez



PROTON’s Chris Atkinson powered the Satria Neo S2000 to a remarkable opening day to finish the first eight special stages of the first leg in the lead of the International Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand.
Atkinson finished the day with a 6.2 second lead from local favourite Hayden Paddon, with PROTON team mate Alister McRae in third spot.
Rallying in cold and wet conditions as a result of intermittent rain amidst the backdrop of smooth flowing special stages, Atkinson began his day cautiously finishing eighth fastest in the opening 13.6km special stage. The Satria Neo S2000 however, proved advantageous over the next immediate and long 40.63km special stage which allowed him to close the gap on rally leader Paddon in the Subaru Impreza WRX Sti. By the end of the third special stage, a 23.75km run, Atkinson shot into the lead with a 14.5 second lead over Paddon, which he held on until the end of the day.
With 76 teams competing in the two-day rally, among the early retirements were Indonesian Rifat Sungkar who went off the road in the second stage, local driver Sloan Cox, Chinese driver Hao Yuan and Japanese Seijchiro Taguchi all behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.
The second and final leg of the rally will be contested over another eight special stages.

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