AUSTRALIAN rally driving star Chris Atkinson has won a major boost to his resurgent career with an invitation to drive arguably the world’s best rally car for the top team in the FIA World Rally Championship in Mexico next month.
Gold Coast-based Atkinson, 33, will drive the Citroen Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s DS3 WRC car on Rally Guanajuato Mexico, round three of the WRC.
His DS3 will be the latest “works” version of the model that took Sebastien Loeb to the two most recent of his nine world driver’s championships for Citroen and in which the Frenchman also won Rallye Monte-Carlo less than three weeks ago.
Although Atkinson has driven Citroen DS4, Citroen C4, Ford Fiesta and Mini WRC cars in recent seasons, Mexico will be his first time at the wheel of a front-running factory machine since he was part of the Subaru World Rally Team in 2004-2008.
It also will be a return to the scene of one of his career-best finishes, where he took second place in 2008 in a star-studded field including world champion teammate Petter Solberg.
Atkinson will stand-in for regular driver Khalid Al Qassimi of Qatar, but hopes a good performance will lead to further appearances this season, including at his home WRC event, Rally Australia, on the New South Wales Coffs Coast in September.
“It was a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t expecting it, but there’s a limited number of drivers who can be called on to perform at this level,” he said of the invitation he received from Paris last weekend..
“Citroen will have seen what I can do, so that will have been a part of it.
“I haven’t had a factory car since I was at Subaru. The support you get in a factory team is nice and I know some of the Citroen engineers, so it won’t be like I’m going in cold.
“We’ll be testing in Europe in a couple of weeks and then we’ll go straight to Mexico.”
Rally Guanajuato Mexico, on 7-10 March, will be based around the 400-year-old city of Leon, 330 kms north of Mexico City.
Mexico will be Atkinson’s third Citroen outing. He scored a fifth place for the Citroen Junior C4 team in Ireland in 2009 and drove a DS3 in Neste Oil Rally Finland last year, but failed to finish.
“This car was awesome to drive in Finland last year… looking forward to hookin’ it in at Rally Mexico,” Atkinson Tweeted to fans this week.
Last season was Atkinson’s best since the Subaru team folded at the end of 2008.
As well as Finland, he drove a Ford Fiesta in Mexico for Ken Block’s Monster World Rally Team, taking the American squad’s first WRC stage win, a Mini for WRC Team Mini Portugal, in which he scored four top-10 finishes from five starts, and won the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship in a Skoda Fabia.
His speed, experience and versatility make Atkinson an ideal candidate for call-ups such as Mexico, but his focus remains on a full-time WRC return.
“Hopefully there will be a couple more drives this year. I also want to drive at Rally Australia,” he said.
“As yet I haven’t sorted out anything but there’s still a few months, so things can happen.”
About Rally Australia
Rally Australia on 12-15 September 2013 will be the 22nd WRC event in Australia and the third since it moved to New South Wales from Western Australia. The 2011 rally attracted more than 13,000 individual visitors to the Coffs Coast, generating more than 64,000 bed nights and a net economic impact of $14.8 million, according to Destination NSW. The shire and forestry roads of the Coffs Harbour, Nambucca, Bellingen and Clarence Valley local government areas provide a true challenge for the WRC drivers against a magnificent backdrop of subtropical coastal and hinterland scenery.
About the FIA World Rally Championship
The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) is widely regarded as the world’s most challenging motorsport championship. Rounds in 13 countries pit drivers in highly-modified versions of popular production cars over a series of timed “special stages” on surfaces varying from gravel and asphalt to snow and ice. Started in 1973, the WRC over the years has been a battleground for makes including Toyota, Subaru, Ford, Citroen, Fiat, Audi, Mitsubishi, Mini and Peugeot. Volkswagen and Hyundai are poised to join the series, which attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators in some countries and a huge global television audience. The WRC is regulated and controlled by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body for motorsport worldwide.
For further information, please contact:
Ben Rainsford Chris Nixon
Chairman Media Manager
Rally Australia M. +61 418 759 417
M. +61 419 816 227 E. [email protected]