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Hyundai i20 WRC

(28/1/2014)  AUSTRALIA’S Chris Atkinson will make his competition debut for the new Hyundai Shell World Rally Team on Rally Mexico in March.

The team announced today at its base in Alzenau, Germany, that Gold Coast-based Atkinson, 34, and long-time co-driver Stephane Prevot of Belgium will occupy the #8 Hyundai i20 world rally car for the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship on the high-altitude gravel stages near the city of Leon, on 6-9 March.

It had already confirmed Atkinson would drive the car on his home event, Rally Australia, on the New South Wales Coffs Coast on 11-14 September.

Hyundai lead driver Thierry Neuville will contest all 13 championship rounds this season, but Atkinson and fellow competition and test drivers Dani Sordo and Juho Hanninen will share a roster in the second car.

“It has been a great pleasure to have been involved in the testing of the Hyundai i20 WRC but to have the opportunity to contest Rally Mexico with the team is fantastic,” Atkinson said after the announcement.

“I have had several good results in Mexico, including my best WRC finish of second place in 2008, so I have some great memories of this event and the Mexican fans.

“It will be the competitive debut of the Hyundai i20 WRC on gravel so it will be interesting to see how we can perform. I know how hard everyone has been working to prepare for this season so I hope we can repay them with a good result.”

The talented Australian, a member of the Subaru World Rally Team until it quit the sport at the end of 2008, first joined Hyundai Motorsport as a test driver last July, bringing a wide knowledge of the WRC to support the development of the car in only six months.

He was confirmed in early December as one of the drivers to share the second Hyundai i20 WRC at selected events during 2014.

Hyundai team principal Michel Nandan commented: “We are very happy to have Chris on board for Rally Mexico, an event he has contested several times during his career and one that he knows very well.

“After Rallye Monte-Carlo we had to start making decisions on Rally Mexico and we thought Chris would be the ideal choice for our first rally on loose surface. We were impressed with Chris’ pace in Mexico last year (when he drove a Citroen DS3) and having feedback from a different driver will definitely help us significantly to further develop the Hyundai i20 WRC.

“Chris was also a major asset during our testing year in the development of the Hyundai i20 WRC in the build-up to our participation in the FIA World Rally Championship and he certainly deserves to be part of the team this year as well.”

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.