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(Event release, 7/8/2013)  AUSTRALIA’S leading international rally driver Chris Atkinson has clocked on for his stint as a World Rally Championship development driver for Hyundai.

Atkinson was announced just over a week ago as one of three drivers hired to test the Hyundai i20 WRC in preparation for the make’s entry in the 2014 series and today Hyundai Motorsport said it had completed its first gravel test.

Atkinson, Juho Hänninen and Bryan Bouffier got behind the wheel of the i20 WRC as the team evaluated a range of new components.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: “We have had a very solid month of testing and learned a lot about the performance potential of the new Hyundai i20 WRC in a range of conditions.

“As with any inaugural testing, there have been some teething issues to overcome but this is precisely the purpose of testing and we have taken time to analyse and understand the problems.

“We have signed three very competent development drivers in Juho, Bryan and Chris and the balance of the last month of testing has, for me, been positive.”

The team carried out two separate private tests in which to put the latest iteration i20 WRC through its paces with the prime objective of component testing in appropriate conditions for the FIA World Rally Championship.

“The two test sessions that we held last month took place in the grounds of Chateau Lastours and Mazamet in the south of France, two venues that afforded us diverse conditions,” continued Nandan.

“It is important for us to gather data in rough, as well as fast and flowing conditions. The Hyundai Motorsport engineering and design teams at Alzenau are constantly working to perfect the i20 WRC so these latest tests gave us the opportunity to assess the main mechanical components of the car, like transmission or suspension. It is very much an evolution of the car we used in previous tarmac tests.”

The team has also been finessing its own operations at the tests, bonding as a team and establishing the test crew set-up for the rest of the year’s testing.

Nandan concluded: “We have had a lot of work to do in a short space of time but I can sense we are working well as a unified team. We have attained another important milestone by kicking off our gravel tests but we have more still to do in the remaining months before Monte-Carlo. We have hit every target so far and I am proud of the entire team effort. We look forward to our next phase of development with optimism.”

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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