PHOTO: The new Volkswagen Golf SCRC Chris Atkinson is driving in China this weekend (Prodrive pic)
AUSTRALIA’S Chris Atkinson has reunited with his former team Prodrive to drive “the best rally car we’ve ever made”, a unique new Volkswagen Golf, in the final round of the China Rally Championship this weekend.
Prodrive built the Golf Mark 7, called the Golf SCRC, for the FAW-VW Rally Team, which is running it for the first time in the Longyou Rally.
Atkinson has been quietly contesting the Chinese championship all season in a different Golf and with the approval of his masters at Hyundai Motorsport, for which he has been a test-driver since last year and drove in the Rally Australia and Mexico rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship this year.
The Gold Coaster’s Prodrive connection dates back to his time with the Subaru World Rally Team from 2004 to 2008, when its Impreza WRCs were built and run with great success by the British outfit.
While China is the initial focus, Atkinson’s drive is effectively a shakedown to demonstrate the car’s potential for other championships around the world.
Prodrive says it has been built in less than six months and while not designed to FIA regulations, many major components are the same as those found in current World Rally Cars, while the roll cage and safety features encompass latest FIA standards.
“We have very much built the car to the spirit of the WRC regulations, but with the Chinese Rally regulations in mind,” said John Gaw, Prodrive Motorsport managing director.
“There is more freedom in the Chinese regulations and that has helped us to create this car in such a short time frame. However, while the first cars will initially compete in China, the car can readily be modified to compete in most ‘open’ class rally series, of which there are many in Europe, Asia and North America.”
A key difference between the Golf SCRC and current World Rally Cars is that it has a two-litre turbocharged engine with a 35 mm restrictor, instead of the 1600cc 33 mm restricted engines found in the WRC.
However, the drivetrain is WRC-spec and features the same six-speed sequential Xtrac WRC gearbox and rear differential found in most current World Rally Cars. The car also has a standard AP Racing WRC brake package.
“Around 80 percent of the car is all-new and the remaining components are either common components you would find on all current WRCs or those where we genuinely believe we already have the best part possible,” Gaw said.
“The team that has designed and engineered the Golf SCRC worked on both the MINI WRC and later versions of the Subaru Impreza WRC. Everything we know about rallying has gone into making this Golf and we believe it is the best rally car we’ve ever made.”
Atkinson’s Prodrive Volkswagen drive does not signal the end of his association with Hyundai, according to the Korean manufacturer’s WRC spokesman Thomas Villette, quoted on motoring.com.au.
“Drivers who participated in a few events with us this year have always been free to run rallies with other brands – for example, Bryan Bouffier in Monte Carlo in a Ford and ‘Atko’ in Asia,” Villette said.
“This policy helps to make some mileage [for part-time drivers], which is good for both the driver and the team.
“In the case of Chris, he told us about this private programme in a Prodrive-prepared rally car and we confirm it does not end our relationship for eventual discussions in 2015.”